" I answer with full confidence: They are selling the reader a fantasy of individuality and freewheeling independence. . . "

A strange pseudo-gentility pervades The Gutenberg Elegies . Although he holds best-selling commercial fiction in contempt, Birkerts himself seems strangely attuned to other people's box office figures. Birkerts' own economics -- his jobs selling books, his sales of review copies on the used book market -- are remarkably prominent in a book about the nature of electronic writing. Nonetheless, Birkerts treats "selling" as a a grave insult.

Nothing, it seems, can be more demeaning for a writer than to be "in trade".

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