i'm just a literary tease, my reputation's on its knees.

Bound for Glory - the future of print

August 18, 2006

An accidental browse in the library ended with me with a copy of print magazine in my hands. This, my friends, is the most fascinating magazine I've ever stumbled across. This magazine is best summed up by its catchphrase: "Design Culture Media." Definitely a must-read for any would be published author concerned about the state of publishing.

One article, "Bound for Glory" discusses the future of books and the impact that electronic technology could have on the print medium. The author writes,

"The sublime irony of reading in cyberspace is that while we can hopscotch among texts and poke our heads through information windows with ease, we can only see one page at a time. Because we can't wrap our hands around an electronic text, we can't wrap our heads around it."

I can definitely see the logic behind this statement. I am a very visual and active learner. I draw circles around words or phrases, highlight pertinent passages, make marginal marks and notes, or draw small doodles so I can visualize a concept. I make arrows that connect similiar ideas, draw stars next to passages that I hope I'll be able to find again, or stick post-it notes on pages I want to visit again. This method of absorbing information does not work with online texts. If I find something particularly interesting online, I make a printed copy. This is the copy I'll refer to later -- very rarely do I visit a random webpage more than one time.

The author later refers to the way that a book can hold memories, similiar to the items I've just described, but also things like dog-eared pages, cover notations, or even water-marked pages from an accidental dip in the bathtub. Electronic text does not have the same "memory" -- a hard drive can be wiped out, a server knocked out of cyberspace, and a url changed. Although I feel the internet is an important form of technology, I don't think electronic books will ever succeed in the way that a "real" book can because somehow a physical object will always seem more "real" than words flashing on a computer screen. (This, of course, begs the question of reality, but I'm really not in the mood today. ;c)

The author writes, "The print medium's saving grace, then, is that it is a sensual technology, the word made flesh. It tickles the haptic, as any bibliophile knows who has ever caressed an onionskin page, inhaled the musk of old pages, run a satisfied finger along the serried ranks on her shelves." As a life long book lover... Sigh... I so agree.

Moira at 02:12 PM :: Comments (2) :: ::

Great post, Moira. It's certainly far from efficient for me to read books via the tiny screen on my PDA, but because I can carry so many texts with me, I'm often willing to put up with the drawbacks of digital texts. Even though I'm getting ready to teach Writing for the Internet, it was books that first drew me to English. Books are great technology, and as computers start cropping up to handle some of the routine tasks that books don't do very well, the remaining books will be even more important for fulfilling the particular cultural role that they do so well.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at August 18, 2006 08:00 PM

Ironically, just today I heard of an online annotation tool that you might be into called "Diigo" It allows you to add sticky notes and highlights to websites that you bookmark.

True: the book is not dead yet. It's just another form of communication next to all the others that uses language. Get into both, I say.

-- Mike Arnzen

Posted by: Mike Arnzen at August 18, 2006 09:02 PM
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