Burdened By Books

Robert Zaretsky at The Baffler:

I’ve begun to fear that requiring my existentialism students to bring real books to class is . . . well, absurd. Absurd not just in the everyday sense of ridiculous, but absurd in the Camusian sense as well. Is it just as unreasonable to demand that students use an ancient technology as it is to demand that an indifferent universe offers us meaning? It might be the case that my traditional expectations of students are unreasonable. More than a few students, rather than bringing paperbacks of the assigned works, bring printouts. At best, this means they haven’t the means to buy the book; at worst, it means they find unmeaningful the very possession of the book. They have no more intention to keep a printout—to reread or reflect upon it—than I have the intention to keep yesterday’s newspaper.

But the real problem, if that is the right word, is not whether they own the book. It is whether they know what to do with it.

more here.