Melvyn Bragg to chair public event examining the future of the book


Renowned writer, broadcaster and University of Leeds Chancellor Melvyn Bragg returns to the city next month to chair a free public event about the future of books.

As the centrepiece of a programme of events organised by the White Rose University Consortium, the University of Leeds is hosting The Future of the Book – a major debate about the place of the book in the digital age. The event will be held in the Great Hall on campus, on Thursday 8 October (6-7.30pm). 

Other speakers include James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones; Linda Grant, the Orange Prize-winning author who wrote about getting rid of her books in I Murdered My Library, and experts from the universities of York, Sheffield and Leeds, which make up the White Rose consortium.

Organiser Professor Gregory Radick, Director of Leeds Humanities Research Institute, said: “For centuries, the bound volume held an esteemed and seemingly invincible place in our culture. But in the digital age, nothing about the status of books – or even their survival as physical objects – is certain.

“How should we understand where we are now, somewhere between the old print culture and the new digital one? What lessons does the past hold when it comes to today’s concerns? Does digitisation herald the end of the book or a new beginning … or neither?”

Melvyn Bragg, who publishes a new historical novel Now is the Time – about the 14th century Peasants’ Revolt – on the day of the debate, said: “I’ve a vested interest in the future of the printed book, but I’m also intrigued by the changing ways in which readers now choose to enjoy the printed word.

“This event, with its interesting range of contributors, promises to provide some fascinating insight into the subject.”

The wider Debating the Book programme, which takes place throughout October, features talks, exhibitions, demonstrations, guided reading groups and other activities. The University of Leeds is holding a range of events, including five run in partnership with Ilkley Literature Festival – the largest literary festival in the North of England.? 

These include Dr Fozia Bora of the School of Languages, Cultures and Societies on A Medieval Islamic Library, Lost and Found; Professor Malcolm Chase (School of History) on Winning Friends and Influencing People: A History of the Self-Help Book; Professor Martin Butler (School of English) on Digitizing Ben Jonson; and Dr Jim Mussell (School of English) and colleagues from the Centre for the Comparative History of Print, who will demonstrate the University’s newly-revived Victorian print room. 


Further information

Future of the Book speakers:

• Melvyn Bragg (chair), author of Twelve Books that Changed the World

• Linda Grant, Orange Prize for Fiction winner and Booker Prize shortlisted author

• Professor Brian Cummings, University of York, distinguished historian of the book, whose 2012 Clarendon Lectures were on “bibliophobia”

• Dr James Mussell, School of English, University of Leeds. Victorian literature specialist and Director of the Leeds Centre for the Comparative History of Print

• Bridgette Wessels, University of Sheffield, a leading expert in the sociology of digital communication in the arts and the public sphere

• James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones 

• Dr Stella Butler, Leeds University Librarian and Keeper of the Brotherton Collection 

The speakers will be introduced by Julian White, CEO of the White Rose University Consortium

For interviews and images, contact University of Leeds press officer Gareth Dant on 0113 343 3996 or via

White Rose University Consortium

Since 1997 the Universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York have built on their individual strengths by collaborating through the White Rose University Consortium to add value from partnership activity in research, enterprise, innovation and learning and teaching.

Working with a range of partners from the private and public sector, both in the UK and overseas, projects to the value of over £100M have been secured into the Universities.