Portable Magic by Emma Smith [8/10]

For anyone with even a passing interest in books as objects and (less so) repositories of creativity, “Portable Magic: A History of Books and Their Readers” is sure to delight. Indeed, as someone who has migrated wholesale to ebooks and still reads a dozen a month, I have to say that I disagree with her central thesis, that books are as potent in their physical form as they are in their content, but I still found this historical and conceptual journey an absolute treat. What distinguishes Portable Magic is the gloriousness of the author’s prose, the cadences and rhythms, the wry humor, the embodiment of wonder. It often seems like every page contains a gem of style or sparkling content. I waited until the closing chapters for Emma Smith’s views on the ebook and was gratified by the wise observation: “Until ebooks develop their own particular communicative rhetoric, design, and features, they seem to be shadows or supplements of the physical book, rather than its opposite.” Heartily recommended.”

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