LITERATURE & NEW MEDIA:

January 2nd, 2010 by susan


Two interesting articles today on the neverending speculations about what e-books will do to change reading habits:

John T brings up the NPR note that focuses on Amazon’s reader and this statement by a writer:

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve really noticed if I sit down with a book, after a few paragraphs, I’ll say, ‘You know, where’s the links? Where’s the e-mail? Where’s all the stuff going on?’ ” says writer Nicholas Carr. “And it’s kind of sad.”

But I find that to be a back and forth switch that toggles itself depending upon which method of reading is being done. If I’m reading “straight” text for a while–a while meaning anyplace from an hour to a couple days–I’m momentarily stumped by finding links in a hypertext piece–and here, I’m talking seconds of indecision. Then back to straight reading where I will indeed be looking for links, as Carr notes. Though not with the sense of sadness, but rather mere readjustment to the medium.

Then this in MacWorld:  “Sales of electronic books topped their paper-based cousins for the first time this past Christmas day, according to Amazon.com”  With the caveat:

“Given the timing of the event, it’s likely that the spike in e-book sales recorded by Amazon was due primarily to the high number of gift recipients who opened up the brand-new Kindles they found under their Christmas trees; nonetheless, this milestone could represent a watershed event for the inexorable rise of e-book readers in general, and the Kindle in particular.”

Yes, that would explain a good portion of it. It’s the typical case of receiving the expensive medium as a gift and then need to feed its hunger with the software.

I don’t know why we’re really even arguing at this early stage of the transition. Any innovation that changes society’s manner of “doing” necessarily involves a bit of generational changing of the guard. Grandpa doesn’t always give up Old Nellie for the Model T that easily. Not by choice, perhaps, but by habit, income restrictions (think about how upgrading even a home use computer is a major decision when old programs won’t work anymore with Bill’s latest software releases) and a small percentage by stubborn resistance or by mere desire to remain in one’s comfort zone of familiarity.

Time will tell, then; though I believe that while all the old literature slowly finds its way onto disk and internet servers, there will always be shelves built for books.

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