“The Commonwealth of the Future”

illustrations by Albert Robida (The End of Books by Octave Uzanne, 1894) | photo by José Tomé & tangiblemode | design by tangiblemode


“Come, my worthy Bibliophile, it is your turn to speak. Tell us how it will be with letters, with literature and books a hundred years hence! Since we are remodelling the society of the future to suit ourselves, this evening, each of us throwing a ray of light into the darkness of the centuries to come, I pray you illuminate certain horizons with a beam from your revolving light.”

Octave Uzanne, The End of Books, 1894


“As the world hurtles on toward its mysterious rendezvous, the old act of slowly reading a serious book becomes an elegiac exercise.”

Sven Birkerts, The Gutenberg Elegies –The fate of reading in an electronic age–, 1994


“If connected to other information, is the book still a book? Do we herald the death of the individual author with the rise of collaborative writing? What role will editorial and technical standards play? While the printed book seems finite, is there room in our Order of the Book for works that never achieve closure, that remain in an unfolding state?”

Joost Kircz, The Unbound Book – Opening Conference,
Amsterdam, 2011


[The book as it once was]: “A long form of attention intended for the permanent, standard and authoritative i.e., socially repeatable and valued – communication of human thought and experience.”

Alan Liu, “We really have to rethink, I think” / lecture, 2011


“No doubt, this will be a major theme for narrative artists of the future, even those locked into the old print technologies. And that’s nothing new. The problem of closure was a major theme — was it not? — of the “Epic of Gilgamesh” as it was chopped out in clay at the dawn of literacy, and of the Homeric rhapsodies as they were committed to papyrus by technologically innovative Greek literati some 26 centuries ago. There is continuity, after all, across the ages riven by shifting technologies.”

Robert Coover, “The End of Books” / The New York Times, Jun 21, 1992


“Either the books must go, or they must swallow us up. I calculate that, take the whole world over, from eighty to one hundred thousand books appear every year; at an average of a thousand copies, this makes more than a hundred millions of books, the majority of which contain only the wildest extravagances or the most chimerical follies, and propagate only prejudice and error. Our social condition forces us to hear many stupid things every day. A few more or less do not amount to very great suffering in the end; but what happiness not to be obliged to read them, and to be able at last to close our eyes upon the annihilation of printed things!”

Octave Uzanne, The End of Books, 1894

. . .

From the stunningly precise and sometimes pretty hilarious, futuristic visions of “The End of Books” (Octave Uzanne, 1894) to the current, passionate debates and creative explosions surrounding digital “bookness”, we draw on a rich corpus of clashing texts composed as a multimodal meditation on the act of ‘reading’.