The physicality, the embedding in real space, the dead weight of the book which, object that it is, is so unapologetically oblivious to the virtuality of Thought, renders the very notion of consciousness more palpable--and simultaneously, more fundamentally impossible than any virtual, digital, or more entirely visual text could do. The age of the old book, its persistence through a span of time longer than any human life; the traces of those lives, and the consciousness itself (whose impossibility is thus even more disturbingly revealed) of its age, make imminent a relationship to time and subjectivity that underpins the notion of 'existence' as such.
To hold and read such a book, with the care and delicacy and even the small risk that it entails, cradling it in one's hands as the boards stretch always a bit farther away from the spine, physiologically enacts an act of reverence, a physical recognition of the precarious thread by which the notion of humanity, not to say being, is suspended in its own void: a thread so thin as to vanish at the very moment it becomes apprehensible.
A well-directed archive is like Perseus' mirror: looking toward the past, we advance toward the future. Staring at ourselves, we approach what we intend to destroy.