“Sir, he hath never fed of the dainties that are bred in a book; he hath not eat paper, as it were; he hath not drunk ink; his intellect is not replenished; he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts:

And such barren plants are set before us, that we thankful should be,

Which we of taste and feeling are, for those parts that do fructify in us more than he.

For as it would ill become me to be vain, indiscreet, or a fool,

So there were a patch set on learning , to see him in a school:

But omne bene, say I; being of an old father`s mind,

Many can brook the weather that love not the wind.”

~~ William Shakespeare, Love`s Labour`s Lost ~~

No one can explain in such stunning language the beauty of the word as transcribed into a book quite like Shakespeare: the internet has made literary omnivores of us, as we snaffle our noses through the pages of anything, and everything from – well, Shakespeare to Harry Potter and beyond. We go to literary festivals: we listen to talking heads of all shapes and sizes, and buy their books in a smorgasbord of frenetic, stockpiling acquisition. We are like goats that eat whatever is put before them: it need not be a diet domestic in flavour, our tastes range far and wide across foreign fields, to include names which a generation ago would have been undecipherable, exotic, and out of the question.

Our shelves groan under the weight of a farrago of every conceivable type of publication, which a few short years ago were home to domestic produce, which the refined intellects of the literary-critical chattering classes grazed upon, while displaying acute disdain at what the “common herd”  were consuming beneath their contemptuous gaze. Now you can get any book with the click of a mouse: the entire literary world is available for everyone, without the conservative constraints of the local book seller to impede your choice.

The literary world is no longer a closed shop patrolled by arbiters of taste, restricting choice with fashion and snobbery: we live in an “open culture” without borders, which allows us to devour away to our heart`s content. The book is no longer exclusive: low, or high brow, educational, pulp fiction, manga, graphic comics, academic papers, obscure religious and historical texts; the internet allows us to find self expression in something which had become lost or forgotten.

Like Shakespeare`s character from Love`s Labour`s Lost, we are eating paper and drinking ink, as our omnivorous appetites and cosmopolitan digestive juices allow us to feed ourselves “….the dainties that are bred in a book”


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