When I first thought about digital writing and reading my mind went to e-books – an obvious conversion from something physical to something digital. A few weeks ago, after reading Katherine Hayles chapter, I proclaimed to my partner that “We should only be using e-books.” This is, of course, an inflammatory statement (just like my title), but one that I couldn’t stop thinking about. After much consideration about what digital writing could afford us, I couldn’t think of any reason besides nostalgia and stubbornness as to why we’re still clenching onto physical books. (And believe me, with over 400 books, I’m extremely guilty of this myself.)
In my project, therefore, I hope to tackle this question: should we fully convert to e-books? I will investigate the effects of reading digitally (why do we retain less information when we read on a screen?), current arguments for or against e-books, what interesting projects have been created around harnessing the unique offerings of e-books, and what can be accomplished with e-books (the Harry Potter books were just released on iBooks with “enhanced content” … but what does that mean?). Most excitingly, I hope to attempt two big experiments with this project. Firstly, I will choose a few different things to read on an e-reader (eg/ a novel, a graphic novel) to test my experiences with it’s allowances. Secondly, I’m hoping to publish and share my work as an e-book itself, to interact directly with the medium and see if it affects what and how I write.
It is undoubtable that bookstores are having a tough time, but it is also true that people are reading more than they ever were before. I want to explore if e-readers are “the future of reading” as I think they’ve oftentimes been marketed, and if they are worthwhile if they are simply a slightly more portable version of physical books. I’ve not met many people who feel that e-books are an exciting medium – most seem to admit that they’re convenient, but I’ll stick with normal books, thank you very much. Is it, perhaps, because e-books have not been harnessing there potential (whatever that potential may be)? As David Birnbaum said in What Is XML and Why Should Humanists Care?, “… publishing something on the screen does not automatically move the researcher very far beyond what would be possible with paper publication.” I want to research this to find what people are doing with this medium and whether or not it can create something special and valuable.
Birnbaum, David J. “What is XML and why should humanists care?” dh.obdurodon.org.
dh.obdurodon.org, 28 Aug. 2015. Web. 1 Oct. 2015.