But for all of us the problem of portability remains, especially in a world of shrinking natural resources. For instance, our latest issue of Granta began its life as a tree in Sweden. It was turned into paper, then trucked down to our printer in Italy. Once the words of Lucía Puenzo, Patricio Pron and others were printed on the paper and bound between covers, workers loaded it back on to trucks and it was driven to a warehouse outside Heathrow.
And that’s just the beginning. If you bought Granta at City Lights, for instance, there would still have been thousands of miles for your copy to travel from Heathrow. It would have been put on an airfreight plane to New York City. It was then loaded on to a new set of trucks, maybe one with a stencilled name like ‘Cool’ or ‘Kurt’ on the driver-side door, and driven to Jackson, Tennessee, unloaded and sorted. It didn’t stick around for long though, because it was then loaded back on to a plane, or a truck, and driven to San Francisco, where it was sorted again, batched, put into a smaller van and finally unloaded at 261 Columbus Avenue.
There is, I think, something almost picaresque about this journey. I would say heroic if that word wasn’t so mangled and abused. But there is, now, a different way to get Granta. If you want to read the magazine on a Kindle, your copy can arrive in under a minute. An improvement in speed of 40,000 per cent. Perhaps this is the way of the future. Trees in Sweden will live a little longer. We don’t know. But a large part of me hopes the journey of the physical paperback continues, because as much as e-book technology will reduce our carbon footprint, a world where everyone must have a $140 device to read is certainly not quite as democratic as the one we live in now. After all, you can just as easily go to a library and read Granta there.
– John Freeman,