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World without books, no way

BEIJING, Aug. 31 (Xinhuanet) – Arecent national survey shows a strong growth in digital reading, with 252 million Chinese aged between 18 and 70 reading books and articles online in 2010 and about 83.6 percent of the respondents saying they would prefer the electronic version of a book if available.

So will e-reading replace books one day? "There are now many ways of spreading knowledge like the computer, which may one day replace Gutenberg's invention," says J.M.G. Le Clzio, "but I cannot imagine a world without books." He hastens to add, though: "It (the book) is a tool as indispensable as hammer, knife, lamp or teapot, and as delicate as violin, flute and percussion instrument."

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Le Clzio, "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization" as the Nobel Committee described him while awarding the Literature prize in 2008, was invited by Nanjing University to deliver a lecture on "Books and our World" on Aug 21. Talking to China Daily on books and new media, he says books have played an essential role in the development of the world, by granting universal access to knowledge and turning it from the privilege of dominant classes into ordinary people's rights a role it performed especially well during Enlightenment.

"Without printed books we would be living in a totally different world. It may prosper as well, but it will be a closed world resistant to progress, desperately imbalanced, filled with unfairness and injustice." He cites the ancient Mayan civilization as an example. What was once illuminating and ripe disappeared for want of print: "There was no democracy and hardly equality before the law while the quality of citizen dwelled on a relatively low level."

"In such a world, knowledge would not serve interaction or social progress, but only draw a new line between those who have knowledge and those who don't There can still be marvellous wonders like the Pyramid, but the people will only build them like slaves, not understanding the meaning of their labor."

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