Via Alan Jacobs, who rightly encourages you to read the whole thing.
It’s not technophobic or Luddite to recognize that the techie questions are largely beside the point. The scope of their effects lies on a time scale that none of us can foresee, thus creating not genuine questions but opportunities for self-serving predictions.
The specific concern for the future of the bound-page book should be seen for what it is: a form of fond special pleading whereby a particular (how I like to read) masquerades as a universal (reading!).
His essay is more thoughtful and substantial than those quotes, by the way. I just thought they were funny.
Does reading have a future? A noted Canadian philosopher gazes into the future
We have always sensed that free time, time not dedicated to a specific purpose, is dangerous because it implicitly raises the question of what to do with it, and that in turn opens the door to the greatest of life mysteries: why we do anything at all. Thorstein Veblen was right to see, in The Theory of the Leisure Class, not only that leisure time offered the perfect status demonstration of not having to work, that ultimate nonmaterial luxury good in a world filled with things, but also that, in thus joining leisure to conspicuous consumption of other luxuries, a person with free time and money could endlessly trapeze above the yawning abyss of existential reflection. With the alchemy of competitive social position governing one’s leisure, there is no need ever to look beyond the art collection, the fashion parade, the ostentatious sitting about in luxe cafes and restaurants, no need to confront one’s mortality or the fleeting banality of one’s experience thereof. Even if many of us today would cry foul at being considered a leisure class in Veblen’s sense, there is still a pervasive energy of avoidance in our so-called leisure activities.
Work hones skills, challenges cognition, and, at its best, serves noble ends. It also makes the experience of genuine idling, in contrast to frenzied leisure time, even more valuable. Here, with only our own ends and desires to contemplate—what shall we do with this free time?—we come face to face with life’s ultimate question. To ask what is worth doing when nobody is telling us what to do, to wonder about how to spend our time, is to ask why are we here in the first place.
Previously in Mark Kingwell tumbles.
The Barbed Gift of Leisure – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education
Mark Kingwell and Joshua Glenn discuss their sequel to The Idler’s Glossary, The Wage Slave’s Glossary. Kingwell:
The idler/slacker distinction is a powerful lever. It makes clear that idling, unlike slacking, is not about work at all: it’s not avoiding work, or resenting work, or hiding from parents or spouses who think you should be working more. Idling offers an independent value which, in being independent, constructs an implicit (sometimes explicit) critique of the work-world’s norms. […] The idler says, don’t grow (if growth just means bigger markets). Instead, play! We are trustees of our time here, not owners of it. When it comes to selfhood and our time here, there is no property; there is only care.
I loved Mark Kingwell’s book In Pursuit of Happiness.
Idler Q&A (3) | HiLobrow