The Very Image of a Book


In Chapter 6 of The Shallows Carr focuses on books. He describes how books have lasted nearly 500 years. People have predicted their demise when newspapers became popular. The relatively quick distribution of ideas in papers was thought to be the downfall of books. The phonograph was thought to also be a technology that would make books less popular. People would return to listening to stories and ideas like before the invention of writing. More recently e-readers are a challenge to books.

Books have advantages that have kept them around. They are easy to search. They can be dropped with little damage. You can spill coffee on book and still use it. Books do not need a charge to use.

E- readers are starting to have advantages, too, though. You can install e-readers on phones and other devices. You can include digital enhancements like hyperlinks and videos. The text is now easy on the eyes to read.

These changes alter the experience with the book. Linearity is lost if the reader follows a hyperlink. If a book is read piecemeal on a phone or tablet while waiting in lines then total immersion may be lost. This is especially true if other features of the phone or computer intrude.

If e-books start to include social media features people may read to enjoy the group interactions in a book. There will no longer be a single interaction between an author and a reader. Authors may begin to write considering how to integrate media and social interaction.

Carr likens this to when computers began to be able to have multiple windows running programs. He says we have gone from being singleminded to be jugglers.

Overall this chapter just seemed to review earlier ideas in the context of books. I continue to hope for ideas about how to exploit the new technologies while keeping the best features of the old.

(I also continue to hope the WordPress iPad app would include features to make it easy to format text. For now you’ll have to pretend the book title is italicized and that NOT BASEBALL is red.)

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