The argument for real books against virtual books is often based on the thingness of the real book — the beauty of the binding, the pleasure of handsome design and typesetting, the sensuality of turning a paper page, the pride of ownership. I sympathize with that, but I’m a reader, not a collector — I love my books (and I have lots of them) for what’s in them. Except for a few dear, battered kid’s books that both my mother and I read as children, the physical individuality of a book is pretty secondary to me.
And so, given this priority of the contents, I’ve defended the e-book and e-reading devices as an extension of, not an attack on, The Book — as augmentation, not loss or destruction.
Ursula K. Le Guin is my god.
Excellent commentary on a recent NYT Op-Ed by Scott Turow (head of the Authors Guild). I definitely recommend reading both.
The difficult thing however about predicting the future of reading is that everything i’ve said so far presumes that what is being read is an “n-page” article or essay or an “n-page,” “n-chapter” book,” when realistically, the forms of expression will change dramatically as we learn to exploit the unique affordances of new electronic media. Ideally, the boundaries between reading and writing will become ever more porous as readers take a more active role in the production of knowledge and ideas.
Although we date the “age of print” from 1454, more than two hundred years passed before the “novel” emerged as a recognizable form. Newspapers and magazines took even longer to arrive on the scene. Just as Gutenberg and his fellow printers started by reproducing illustrated manuscripts, contemporary publishers have been moving their printed texts to electronic screens. This shift will bring valuable benefits (searchable text, personal portable libraries, access via internet download, etc.), but this phase in the history of publishing will be transitional. Over time new media technologies will give rise to new forms of expression yet to be invented that will come to dominate the media landscape in decades and centuries to come.
Sometimes you encounter an idea that seems so obvious it’s amazing that nobody has thought of it before. That’s how Yoav Lorch feels about Total Boox, his intriguing new reading platform that is about to be unveiled this March. The idea is simple: instead of paying up front for a book you may never even look at, you download it for free and then only pay according to how much of the book you read.
This sort of system would certainly make me more likely to abandon a book if I don’t like it!
But it seems like a potential hassle administratively—I mean, just how will that work technologically? How often does the device report back to the company (i.e. is it possible to finish a book and then delete the file before it registers that the entire book was read)? What if the price goes up while you’re reading something?
And the fact that, in theory, they’ll know exactly what you’re reading and when creeps me out a bit.
I don’t do reader’s advisory as part of my job, but I’m always interested in recommendations for what to read next. I’ll have to play around with these the next time I need some reading inspiration. :)
Yet when asked whether they would be willing to give up existing resources to make room for these things — to move some books to off-site storage centers to make sense for a device-testing center, for instance — only 20% of survey participants said they were in favor. Thirty-six percent said libraries should “definitely” not move books off-site.
Which sums up the whole problem, really.
“All of Hollywood is run on one assumption: that women will watch stories about men, but men won’t watch stories about women… All of the decisions are made based on this - this concrete fact - and nobody’s ever really proved that that’s true. I think it’s a horrible indictment of our society of we assume that one-half of the population is just not interested in the other half”
-Geena Davis, Actor & Activist
Books give you a better perspective