We who pride ourselves in reading much and widely forget that the printed page serves us in a similar fashion as the drug serves an addict. After a short time away from it we grow agitated and begin to pine, by which time anything will do: a bus timetable, a telephone directory, an operating manual for a washing machine. "They say that life’s the thing," said Logan Pearsall Smith, a littérateur of distinction but now almost forgotten, "but I prefer reading." For how many of us—avid readers, that is—has the printed page been a means of avoidance of the sheer messiness, the intractability, of life, to no other purpose than the avoidance itself? It is for us what the telenovela is for the inhabitant of the Latin American barrio, a distraction and a consolation. We gorge on the printed page to distract ourselves from ourselves: the great business of Doctor Johnson’s life, according to Boswell and Johnson himself. Or we read to establish a sense of superiority, or at least to ward off a sense of inferiority: "What, you
haven’t read Ulysses?"
Once, staying overnight at an airport hotel in Los Angeles, I found myself without a book. How this happened I can no longer recall; it was most unusual, for by far the most useful lesson that life has taught me, and one that I almost always heed, is never to go anywhere without a book. (In Africa, I have found that reading a book is an excellent way of overcoming officials’ obstructionism. They obstruct in order to extract a bribe to remove the obstruction; but once they see you settled down for the long term, as it were, with a fat book, Moby-Dick, say, they eventually recognize defeat. Indeed, I owe it to African officialdom that I have read Moby Dick; I might otherwise never have got through it.)
(Anthony Daniels, The Digital Challenge: I: Loss & Gain, Or The Fate of the Book )