Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Of late, I've resigned myself to the fact that eBooks are poised to edge out their paper counterparts. According to Wired, Amazon officially sold 143 eBooks for every 100 hardcovers over the course of the second quarter of 2010. The very infrastructure of the publishing company I work for is built on shifting material online. Fisher-Price is buzzing about the tablet-style touch screen iXL Learning System, to be released this holiday season, "hailed as the iPad for the fresh-out-of-diapers set." Bibliophile or no, I'm not blind to the book digitization trend, its inevitability, nor its copious advantages:
- lower production and distribution costs
- facilitation of interpersonal engagement, through multimedia content and connection to social media
- potential for enriched learning
- "Books are the items most standing in the way of my imagined life of portability." -Tanya Paperny on LitDrift
"In a sleek, shiny, distant future, books may feel old and impossibly large, with too much physical mass and all these fussy pages put to use for the simple task of storing a tiny amount of data, data that is not searchable or copy and pasteable or malleable and interactive in the ways we expect of our data.... And yet there is and will always be some beauty in books. And there will always be people who appreciate that beauty.... [Books] are something like snowflakes or at least stamps, so many and so few alike."Magee predicts that features like deckle-edge pages, embossed lettering and archaic monograms, aesthetic details that celebrate the art of book production, will become more prevalent and elaborate.
Jan Swafford, in a Slate article titled "Why e-books will never replace real books," takes the same stance. He cedes the many benefits of electronic books, even announcing that his next book, on Beethoven, will be "three-dimensional," accompanied by a website with links to music, background content, and a blog. He concludes,
"So real books and e-books will coexist. That has happened time and again with other new technologies that were prophesied to kill off old ones. Autos didn't wipe out horses. Movies didn't finish theater. TV didn't destroy movies. E-books won't destroy paper and ink. The Internet and e-books may set back print media for a while, and they may claim a larger audience in the end. But a lot of people who care about reading will want the feel, the smell, the warmth, the deeper intellectual, emotional, and spiritual involvement of print."I am comforted by these writers' support of the notion that physical books will never be just relics. We can celebrate the beauty of books without relocating them to behind museum glass. We can own an iPad and a bookshelf in tandem. Or in my case, multiple sagging-near-to-collapse bookshelves.
Friday, July 16, 2010
"We need to understand the value of what we may be losing when we skim text so rapidly that we skip the precious milliseconds of deep reading processes. For it is within these moments—and these processes in our brains—that we might reach our own important insights and breakthroughs. They might not happen if we’ve skipped on to the next text bite."
According to Wolf, the formation and development of complex brain pathways by reading takes years. She states that "there is no genetic guarantee that any individual novice reader will ever form the expert reading brain circuitry that most of us form." Thus, the brain of a reader who uses only a fraction of their available cognitive resources is less maturely developed than that of a reader who expends intellectual effort in proving multiple layers of meaning. And, just like a muscle, lack of exercise leads to atrophy. Our societal glut of immediate information, coupled with the effort to reduce that information to its tiniest magnitude, could have measurable physical effects.
Playwright Richard Foreman asks, in contemplation of the question, "How is the Internet changing the way you think," asks,
"Are we becoming Pancake People — spread wide and thin as we connect with that vast network of information accessed by the mere touch of a button?"Maybe as Pancake People we're also developing Waffle Brains- little nutritional value, light as air, perforated by empty space.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
"Featuring a book on your bookshelf is akin to displaying a trophy. You’ve accomplished something in reading a book; it feels like a victory. The opportunity to display your literary conquests in unique or unexpected ways is something I will greatly miss with e-readers."-The Book Bench
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Thursday, July 1, 2010
With the migration of journalism from print to online, I consider the loss of magazine covers a considerable one. Editorial content is the heft of a publication's value, yes, but how memorable is a list of links accompanied by thumbnails on an iPhone or Kindle? Even print pubs are taking a cue from their digital cousins and offering readers cover customization: Wallpaper* Magazine is hawking the chance to "play art director for the day" and Graphic Arts Monthly offered five different covers for its January issue based on a survey of its 70,000 subscribers, each reader receiving the copy whose cover story pertained most specifically to them. The magazine industry has had flames licking at its edges for some time now- evidenced by Out of Print titles and magazine graveyards, plus magazine aggregate sites like Maggwire. But I'm fighting the trend tooth and nail- editors, and your design teams, you can still have my dollars!
Monday, June 21, 2010
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
But what mattered wasn't what the note said, or with what intricacy it was folded, but the connection between two students. It was bonding to form a devious liaison. Even more so because there was actual effort behind the minor rebellion; the same can't be said about text messages, apparently the note-passing du jour. Just like my parents always gushed over handmade beglittered construction paper birthday cards, physical pen-and-paper notes express more than a few lines on a mobile screen. Mama Tulip blogger reminisces about her
"notes written and passed back and forth during class, notes I penned while sprawled on my daybed, listening to The Cure. Notes sent to boyfriends and best friends, a paper trail of my becoming that I kept in a shoe box under my bed.... I thought about that box and about all the notes I wrote, folded up and passed in my lifetime… and then it occurred to me that passing notes is something my kids probably won't do. I mean, in this day and age, passing notes is practically archaic. The thought makes me feel weepy. Also, old."I've lamented the increasingly widespread abandonment of paper, from the Open Siddur Project to the superfluousness of bookmarks for eReader users. I've even waxed poetic about my love for paper itself. So even in this more recreational domain, note-passing, I feel a sense of nostalgia, plus a sadness for the generations to come whose computerized goofing-off will never be as fulfilling. It's more of a feat to hold an arts and crafts session on your desk then wait, hovering, until the perfectly timed moment to stick your hand across the aisle, than it is to punch some buttons and press send. I can only hope the middle-schoolers of today and tomorrow will set the phones down, and haul out the glue sticks and magic markers for their parents' birthdays.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
- "Ohhh... I see..."
- "OH, I see!"
Many, however, greatly enjoy listening to audiobooks. My uncle likes to listen on his commute to work; my mom and her friends, who by virtue of living in the suburbs spend more time than average behind the wheel, aren't opposed to the idea either. And they may be onto something. In a March Vanity Fair article, Christopher Hitchens writes,
Hitchens's observance of the growing popularity of audiobooks doesn't encourage me to purchase one rather than its textual progenitor, but it does reassure me that wind exists yet in the sails of the traditional publishing world, albeit in an alternate form. I'd so much rather see audiobooks on shelves than vooks or blooks. Especially if they're performed by the authors themselves. And technology is (terrifyingly) moving in the direction of gauging accent and timbre and even sarcasm so that future interpretations of texts even by computers may be closer to what the author intended. The trouble, of course, is that writers sometimes do not wish for a singular translation unto their readers; as Hitchens quotes Emily Dickinson: "A Pen has so many inflections, and a Voice but one."
Despite his reluctant praise of Martin Jarvis's readings, Hitchens concludes, "To slide in a tape or a CD rather than cracking a hefty volume and making marginal notes? Mere hedonism!" Couldn't agree more.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
"Coming back from my week-long email vacation last year, I realized I had not missed anything important and that checking my email once a week would probably suffice. To that end, I started thinking about email as a weekly publication instead of an always on application. I took all of my emails from that week of December 1, 2009 through December 7, 2009, organized them and laid them out as a set of magazines."
"This prototype demonstrates email in a completely different, more readable, less urgent context and although it’s not practical for mass consumption, it does highlight the one-directional, informational nature of many email messages."
"Email bankruptcy, overload, overflowing inboxes, obsessive checking, rechecking and endless spam... By 2011, there will be 3.2 billion email users. Email's in charge of our days and our nights. It has taken over. Why? What is so compelling about email?"Martin's reimagining of electronic text into print text is her response to this conundrum. Mine? I'll put down the mouse and pick up a book. Signing off for a full week.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
Launched this past January by LibraryThing, a major social-networking-through-books website, Local Books is free and lists bookstores, libraries and book-related events based on your zipcode. The venues are wide-ranging, from public and academic libraries to chain bookstores and indie bookshops. The events include author signings, speaking engagements, kids' storytime, and book discussions. The app allows you to search and sort by date, distance, and name of location, plus add results to a list of stored Favorites. You can also adjust the search range mileage and the time frame. Sounds like a bibliophile's dream.
But Carolyn Kellogg's review in the L.A. Times is hesitant. She writes,
"As good as the venue listings are, the search function seems, in this iteration, a little creaky. Searching for "skylight" and "skylight books" turned up venues more than 999 miles away, but never delivered the Skylight Books in nearby Los Feliz."But ultimately Kellogg concludes that Local Books has the potential to serve as a literary Urban Spoon- that is, without the nifty slot-machine-like spinning feature. Local Books' potential relies partially on users' supply of "delicious info," as Kellogg continues the restaurant database metaphor. That is, LibraryThing subscribers can submit the information that feeds the Local Books app, forming a direct engagement between the old and new worlds of publishing. I like the idea that the literary community is fueling this service, a fact that becomes clear in the mishmosh of listings: Barnes&Noble juxtaposed with the Free Library of Philadelphia with Joseph Fox Books. I also like the idea that I can use a mobile device to access a hard copy book. That's what modern publishing should be aimed at; leveraging its technological capacity to benefit its traditional cousin. Finally we're playing nice.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
But those reasons aren't what really propelled me to read the piece from first sentence- "Back in 2006, when I was 24, my life was cozy and safe."- to last- "I still think about closing the door to my online life and locking [the negative comments] out, but then I think of everything else I’d be locking out, and I leave [my blog] open." I think Gould's frank examination of modern society's absorption of technology like a dishrag mopping up spilled milk touches on a key concept too often overlooked: the eradication of writers' privacy.
Privacy issues borne by the Internet's highly-connective nature have centered on Facebook and other social media tools. But what about the destruction of the protective barrier between writer and reader? Anyone writing on a digital platform arguably exposes themselves to the judgement of a vast, unknown audience. I have no way of taking a name-tagged head count of who even reads these posts, just as the physicians who compose research articles for the journal websites published by the company I work for have no control over the medical community's response to their work. Gossip bloggers like Emily Gould, and her manifold counterparts on Gawker-kindred sites from Jezebel to Philebrity to TMZ- subject themselves to the brutality of the public's backlash, as Gould experienced and admitted was justified.
But what about bloggers, and online journalists, and authors maintaining homepages, who are just trying to adapt their craft to the new medium? These people haven't sacrified integrity, as Gould and other bloggers at times have, for page hits. Yet appraisal comes with the territory of writing online, doesn't it? From the aggravation of a flooded inbox- which New York Times essayist Ben Yagoda writes about in The Perils of 'Contact Me'- to nasty comments on blog posts- scrapbook hobbyist and mom Jillian Deiling Cassity responded directly on her blog Scrappy Jilly to one such antagonizer- perils abound for even the most innocent of online writers.
To be heard, writers in 2010 need to migrate to an online platform. But that means the danger of encountering the dark underside of the Internet, even when such animosity is unprompted. One commenter on Gould's article wrote:
"I ask myself why, in a world where we are so aware of the greater picture around us, a certain small-minded blog culture is so thriving? Is it just a need for entertainment? For connectedness? In part, I see it as a need to create a small and manageable focus in a world where there are such incomprehensible and insensible happenings occurring."
I agree. And I also think the potential for anonymity on the Internet emboldens both the bloggers and the responders who slander, whereas the honorable, ethical writers trying to carve a path for themselves through the brambles of the current state of publishing are doing just the opposite: highlighting their bylines in hopes of discovery. The paradox is when these phenomena overlap, and the good guys get hurt.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
"Some time soon, the company won’t say when, the 100-millionth person will have signed on to Twitter to follow and be followed by friends and strangers. That may sound like a MySpace waiting to happen — remember MySpace? — but I’m convinced Twitter is here to stay."He backs up this bold statement with several articulate arguments:
- It's a source of "incredibly vital, timely information... from really bright people in their respective fields".
- It's a means by which we can glean succinct, pithy information in lieu of spouting-off, because of the 140-character confines and tools like the hashtag (which collects comments by topic).
- It's a source of "algorithmic authority", in his words, "meaning that if all kinds of people are pointing at the same thing at the same instant, it must be a pretty big deal."
I support the use of social media products like Facebook and Twitter for just that- social media. But the threat of corrosion of quality news media and literary craft is undeniably due, in part, to the spreading-like-a-virus use of these communicative tools. Why painstakingly construct a well-reported and -composed piece of narrative writing to spark debate when an economical 140-character message blasted into the digital cosmos will accomplish the same? I'm not claiming that award-worthy writing is dead, or dying. I'm just worried that the overlap in usage- social and professional- in a creative product like Twitter is working toward a level medium in which we'll forget there was ever a difference between the two.
Perhaps the most worrisome: Carr wrote his editorial January 1, the first day of a new decade. A coincidence? Or is his message, then, harbinger of our publishing future?
Monday, May 10, 2010
And so I applaud the efforts of the Topeka, Kansas library's fourth annual Edible Book Festival 2010. Organizer Brea Black called the caliber of the entries "amazing". That's a combination of "witty", "mouth-watering" and "literarily sophisticated."
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The first thing I'm drawn to in someone's apartment, or house, or office, is their book collection. I can't help but pass some light judgement based on their reading material. The New York Times' Book Bench blog has a feature called The Subconscious Shelf wherein readers submit snapshots of their bookshelves for analysis.
The "Subconscious Shelf" bolsters my view that you can judge people by their (book) covers. You can glean what genres and time periods and authors interest them most, yes, but you can also gauge their personality: a Dave Barry collection amid the great classics suggests a sparkle of wit in an otherwise serious academic; a Dan Brown novel among contemporary Pulitzer- and PEN/Faulkner- winners conveys a desire to treat the modern literary landscape democratically, politics-driven award committees be damned. The way a reader organizes their shelf also speaks volumes: are they scatter-brained-professor disheveled, fastidiously color-coded neat, architecturally inclined?
Stacked Up TV Productions is another initiative in highlighting readers', in this case specifically writers', shelves. The company's blog explains,
"A mashup of MTV’s Cribs, Oprah’s Book Club and The Paris Review, each five-minute Stacked Up episode features one of your favorite writers giving an insider’s tour of his or her library. We’ve found the best way to know writers is by the books they keep."Readers beget writers, so what better tool of analysis of a writer than to "read"- evaluate- their collection of books? Of course, this appraisal is lost with the advent of eReaders. With covers masked and physical book collections dwindling in favor of Kindle- and Nook-loadable texts, the opportunity to uncover even a tidbit of insider information about a reader is dissolving. That is, unless we can outpace technology's seam-ripping of the integrated reading community and simply ask someone, "What do you like to read?"
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
-Mother Jones Washington bureau chief and Politics Daily columnist David Corn
Monday, April 19, 2010
"I love the typefaces and the bindings and the feel of well-made paper. But what I really love is their inertness. No matter how I shake 'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,' mushrooms don’t tumble out of the upper margin, unlike the 'Alice' for the iPad. I never have the lingering sense that there is another window open behind page 133 of 'the lives and times of archy and mehitabel.' I can tell the weather from these books only by the way their pages curl when it’s hot and humid.
And more. There is never a software glitch, like the one that keeps me from turning the page in ebrary. And there’s nothing meta about the metadata of real books. You can’t strip away details about the printing of the book — copyright information, place and date of publication — without actually tearing off the binding, title page, half-title and colophon. The book is the book, whereas, in electronic formats, the book often seems to be merely the text."
Verlyn Klinkenborg, "Some Thoughts About E-Reading"
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I wrote my college thesis on the Free Library of Philadelphia, a documentary for which I spent the whole of second semester senior year hanging out at the West Philly branch trying to sew myself into the seams of the place. I made friends with the librarians, the part-time shelvers, a few regulars like homeless Lionel Smith who I took to McDonalds across the street for a Filet-o-Fish. I've always been a bookworm and, more relevant, a library lover. I got a blue and white plastic library card in elementary school and actually used it. Even at my grandmother's beach house in Delaware my parents would take me to the local library to check out books. There's a beautiful rawness to used books, a rich backlog of other pairs of hands that have touched the same pages you're touching. Like tire tracks on a dirt road. I keep an envelope of objects I find in library books: a bandaid in its creased wrapper, a mini yellow Post-It scrawled with a phone number, a quarter-sheet cardstock flyer for a long-ago concert. (There's a Flickr feed "Library Finds" with the same objective.) I miss the days when the inside of library books' back covers bore the date stamps of past readers, a haphazard spooling column of blue ink recording in permanence each temporary possession of the volume.
But although today's libraries have hitched themselves to the technology bandwagon alongside every other sector of the book industry (Skokie, Illinois librarian Toby Greenwalt writes in the Huffington Post of libraries' downloadable collections, text message librarian correspondence, and mobile-optimized sites) the charm and merit and, most importantly, necessity of these institutions has not lessened. The architectural beauty of libraries symbolizes their magnitude (see the Huffington Post's slideshow of "America's Most Amazing Libraries" in honor of National Library Week, and the below video of Louis Kahn's New Hampshire library):
The positive influence Philadelphia's library system fosters is obvious, but so can libraries hold such power in areas that aren't downtrodden. They provide boundless archives of photographs (see the New York Public Library's photostream on Flickr), an invaluable human resource that shatters the bun-and-glasses stereotype (see Flavorwire's list of the 10 Best Songs About Libraries and Librarians and, on a more serious note, The New Yorker's and Slate's interviews with Marilyn Johnson, author of the librarian-centric This Book Is Overdue!), and a wellspring of reading material that is cost-free.
Jamie LaRue outlines on MyLiblog seven arguments for building new libaries, in an age when cities short on funding are shutting them down. His Argument #1 reads, "We are the business that (at least in most communities) never goes out of business." Here's hoping.
"Leaves spin up into coilings and subside.
This windy much-ado, arising
The desert could well serve as epitaph
For Alexandria, Rome,
For all the ancient libaries whose collections
vanished in a mammoth wordless void.
And though I have the evening clouds'
Thoughts of the art and science thus destroyed
Leave me a
little empty and unnerved.
The consolation? Some things were preserved,
Technology now limits what is lost,
And learning, as it's presently
Is safe from any partial holocaust."
-from Timothy Steele's "The Library"
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Troy Patterson, in a Slate article late last year, discussed several book trailers (like Jonathan Safran Foer's short web video for Eating Animals, below) and contended that "such clips can reveal the hopes and fantasies of readers, writers, and publishers alike".
Patterson criticizes the "Hollywood glamour" in some of these video projects that distracts from the literary merit of a given work, but in general takes a resignedly accepting stance towards the new media. I agree with his evaluation. I view book trailers as adapting to modern publishing, as the print ads of 2010- and whoever took issue with The New Yorker's sidebar promotion of new books, for example? In fact, many of the trailers, rapidly becoming stickier throughout publishing, are artistically sophisticated. One example is Jamieson Fry's piece for T.C. Boyle's The Women:
In a technological climate pushing physical books to the margins- The Millions cited in January that Laredo, Texas, population 250,000, is now literally bookstore-less- any effort to get books into readers' hands is commendable. Granted, book trailers can promote eBooks just as much as bound books, but for readers hesitant to convert to the Kindle just yet these marketing campaigns will fuel a purchase. Like Patterson, I think the trailers can be hokey, contrived, artificial. But so, too, can they be aesthetically pleasing, cinematically impressive, and, most importantly, commercially successful.
Friday, April 2, 2010
"Give them away or pass them on – but don't let go of printed books," writes Suzanne Munshower on The Guardian's Books Blog. Amen.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
-Nora Ephron, I Feel Bad About My Neck
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
“Until another day? I sincerely think not. I have begun another book and wish to dedicate all my time to it. You will see why, if it all goes well.”I have to say I disagree with both men.
Saramagos' litblogging effort has antecedents; according to Wikipedia, "blooks" have existed for a number of years, a trend with enough traction to institute the Lulu Blooker Prize in 2005. Tucker Max, famed chronicler of drunken encounters, published New York Times bestseller I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell in 2006, writing in a genre he calls "fratire". The book based on Julie Powell's cooking blog "The Julie/Julia Project" was made into the film Julie & Julia in 2009. Colby Buzzell, a U.S. Army machine-gunner who spent a year in Iraq, turned his 2004 blog into a captivating and acclaimed memoir, My War: Killing Time in Iraq.
The breadth of these examples suggests the wide range of possibilities for transforming blogs into respectable- or, at least, commercially successful- prose. A Business Week article titled "'Blooks' are in Bloom" quotes Eileen Gittins, CEO of online publisher Blurb.com,
"We believe there's a market [for book-publishing services] for every single blogger out there. Charles Dickens originally serialized his novels in magazines. We are seeing much the same thing happening today, with blogs."
The blogosphere is rife with well-written material, and writers that prioritize literary craft. The tempest of new media is all about breaking down walls, between interface and user, writer and reader, professional and layman, traditional publishing and cutting-edge; why can't we discard the boundary, too, between blogging and "real" writing? I'll concede that the extension of electronic writing into the formalized publishing realm has its limits: 19-year-old U Chicago undergrads Alexander Aciman and Emmett Rensin's recent book Twitterature, a compilation of reimagined classic works in 20-character-tweet form, makes me gag (the Huffington Post writes that it "kicked all that is sacred about the written word in its proverbial scrotum"). But Twitter, like the blogosphere, does house the literary-minded among the rabble. An informal GalleyCat poll at the end of last year found "1,790 novelists, 9,139 poets, 19,490 journalists, 28,529 authors, and a staggering 99,082 writers on Twitter."
Basically I respect the fact that Saramago and Cowles are pigeonholing blogging and publishable writing, because I share readers' and authors' fear that cultivated writing will perish without its own limelight. But I also think there's room for blogs- earnest, finely written, ones especially- to evolve off the screen in their own right, not as a replacement for traditional books. So, I'd answer Saramago's ultimate question, "Until another day?" with a frank "Yes."
Monday, March 29, 2010
"Repeat after me:Such were William Zinsser's words on August 11, 2009 to the incoming international students at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. His talk centered on the technology era's diminishment of the sense of journalistic writing as craft. The overarching question he posed was why, in a digital age, should reporters be concerned with the art of writing when the focus is on the electronic: quick, mobile-friendly blog entries accompanied by video clips, podcasts, high resolution images. His answer:
Short is better than long.
Simple is good.
Long Latin nouns are the enemy.
Anglo-Saxon active verbs are your best friend.
One thought per sentence."
"You’ll be making and editing videos and photographs and audio recordings to accompany your articles. Somebody—that’s you—will still have to write [my emphasis] all those video scripts and audio scripts."
In my journalism classes at Penn, professors touched on the importance of gaining familiarity with new media, in that if modern news writers don't stay abreast of the direction the field is taking, they have no hope of success. But they never suggested that journalists sacrifice the quality of their craft for the sake of satisfying digital trends. At my two magazine jobs, editors encouraged us to hone our writing skills even while it was important to compose succinct pieces befitting blog posts or newsletter blasts.
But when Wikipedia serves as a legitimate source for The New York Times, the vocabulary of printmaking is steadily dissolving into obsoleteness, elimination of copy editors' from publications' staff lessens the sense of professionalism (The Baltimore Sun's front page subhead on January 21, 2010: "Rawlings-Blake says her bill will seek to heighte public trus' "), cellphone novelists are scoring book deals, and LG has unveiled a bendable eBook Reader as a newspaper replacement, the message bull-horned to budding journalists is that eschewal of honed writing is acceptable in favor of catering to the format of modern media.
I realize that there is a vast audience for poorly written yet informationally rich writing, even sometimes including me. For example, my daily Slate e-newsletter often has typos but still provides a succinct global news roundup. In general, however, enviably fine writing such as in Vanity Fair, New York Magazine, The Guardian, and lit blog The Millions, can communicate the same valuable information but infinitely more palatably. The only difference between career journalists and citizen journalists is this allegiance to the art of writing; flagging in such integrity makes titling oneself a professional journalist meaningless.
I haven't settled on a writing path but I have always been drawn to the article form; so the debate over the metamorphosis of journalism has personal relevance. I understand the need to mold writing to the requisites of modern publishing. But I also will stubbornly defend the now-old-line mentality of journalists like Zinsser, my writing professors and former magazine editors. Superior writing is never outmoded.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Obviously the migration of reading to a digital platform eradicates bookmarks. Saving your place becomes automated, and dog-earing a random page becomes a computerized mimicry:
"On any content page, use the scroll wheel to select the small triangle in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Click the scroll wheel and you’ll see the small triangle now looks like it was folded down."What about my Phillies tickets? What about those American Girl Dolls bookmarks I've saved for over a decade? What about the comfort and familiarity of seeing a book sitting on your nightstand with a marker sticking out as a symbol of those hard-earned pages gone by, and the reward that is the rest of those pages to come?
Computerized bookmarking in general is a useful tool: flagging websites for future reference, highlighting or recording a note in Word to track your reading progress. But electronically bookmarking for-pleasure reading is just one more depersonalization of the reading experience. I'll take the frustration of bookmarks slipping out into the bottom of my purse over scroll-wheel-clicking any day.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
"In the end, whether books come on clay or wrapped in vellum, whether they are as ornately illustrated as “The Book of Kells,” or as plain as a city directory, I have to place my trust in readers. Tactile readers, e-readers: Save us all! Never give up on the power of the written word, no matter the form, and hold its gatekeepers accountable."
-Timothy Egan, The New York Times Opinionator blog
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
But the recent trend of video game adapatation of literature may force me to acquaint myself more familiarly with the console. This past November, MediaBistro blog GalleyCat cited the B&H Publishing Group's creation of Bible Navigator X, a Bible Reader for Xbox 360. Yes, you read that right. According to Aaron Linne, B&H Publishing Group's executive producer of digital marketing:
"The Xbox isn't just secular entertainment anymore. We can use technology that other people developed to study Scriptures through a new medium. Some people are just more comfortable with a controller in their hands than a book."
The application is available for $5 or 400 Microsoft Points, the currency of the Xbox Live marketplace. Bible Reader users can search, bookmark and adjust settings for big screen readings or customized reading themes.
My initial reaction was skepticism at the sacriligious undertones of manipulating the Bible with technology normally reserved for gory car theft games and virtual wrestling matches. But, really, how different is this venture from the Kindle's digitization of texts, or "cellphone novels" written with and read on mobile phones? (Among best selling novels of the last 3 years, 4 of the top 10 novels in Japan were written with cellphones, like the entire bookcase's contents below.)
The video game lit genre is here to stay: Electronic Arts and Random House recently teamed to release a video game version of Dante's Inferno, in which players can explore the circles of hell interactively in addition to on the page. Much like the vook, these video games meld literary quality and enhanced new media features with the aim of providing a rich, multi-faceted experience of a text. But unlike the vook, games allow readers to physically participate, justifying the hijacking of literature as raw material. Furthermore, the games aren't trying to edge out books from the publishing world, but rather supplement them.
Here's my video game aficionado friend Billy on yet another benefit of video game adapation of books:
"Ask a middle schooler or high-schooler if they remember anything about The Crucible, The Things They Carried, To Kill A Mockingbird, 1984, etc, and they won't be able to recount it with either the vividness or enthusiasm they'll be able to tell the story of Link and the Triforce (Legend of Zelda), the moment Sephiroth killed Aeris in front of Cloud (Final Fantasy 7), minute details about the T-Virus (Resident Evil), etc etc. All of these have intricate plots with the same kind of research, details, development, and copious amounts of dialogue one expects from either a book or movie. But you are far more invested."
Just as with every other new age form of literature I've addressed, these intellectualized video games will never replace tangible paperbacks for me. But I'm willing to cede their beneficially immersive treatment of text. I'll consider them less a thorn in the flesh of the publishing industry, and more an aggravatingly itchy tag in the back of my shirt.