Hardwick Essay 1

Exploration of Digital vs. Print Text: Bibliographical Essay

Topic Exploration:

The print book vs. the digital text on an eBook reader is a battle most English majors are familiar with in some sense. Most in the liberal arts field cling desperately to the print book, in fear that it is disappearing. Many questions are raised as this new text technology excels. What will happen to publishing companies? Will the print book disappear completely? What about pricing? Marketing? And how will it affect how people read? Articles and books are popping up everywhere online everyday about this ‘literary crisis’, especially in the publishing field. I have identified three of these articles and summarized their contents and responded to them, in order to begin developing a collection of helpful pieces to analyze and expand on in the future.

Crain, Caleb. "Twilight of the Books." Editorial. The New Yorker 24 Dec. 2007: 1-5. Arts and Culture. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2007/12/24/071224crat_atlarge_crain?currentPage=all


The beginning of this article gives statistics about how Americans are reading less and less over the course of the past years. Also the actual cost of books had reached its 20th year low, accounting for inflation. Then Crain discusses how reading ability/literacy has also been declining and how the now that it’s not just that younger people are not reading as much, it is everybody regardless of age and generation percentage wise is not reading as much. With the introduction of TV into the Netherlands, Crain notes that they are experiencing a decrease in reading/literacy as well. Although Crain says that he believes that reading will never disappear completely, it may move into more of an “arcane hobby” then a regular occurrence. Addressing Maryanne Wolf’s research, he discusses how the process of reading developed over time (from Mesopotamia to Rome), and how it is not an inherently natural process. It is actually something our brains have to learn to do by making special connections. Cain continues with the discussion of how oral communication though TV is becoming more popular and how thinking orally and literally is different. Using Aleksandr R. Luria’s research, Cain talks about how people who are illiterate think more orally and have a hard time describing things that are not physical, and determining distinctions and forming connections on anything more than a task oriented basis. Cain discusses how a person thinks in a unique way when reading because they are alone in receiving information, but have enough ‘space in their mind’ to think objectively about what they are reading and internalize it. Opposed to thinking visually, where your might receive more information, but your brain is more fully occupied and busy, so there is less ‘thinking space’, and you are unable to think as objectively an remember the information, and are more likely to be emotionally involved. Then Cain discusses how TV can be good thing for literacy, for example with younger kids watching Sesame Street, but can also be a hindrance in language/thought development if watched too much. It has even been proven that with the internet, reading online will help improve the literacy/thinking development with children. Cain ends discussing how we really won’t be able to make society read more, and how this trend for not reading might just be a pendulum, where in the future people will come back to reading. Readers do tend to exercise more, and get out of the house more than the typical oral learner. He wonders if this is something society will miss when people read less.

I am very aware that this article was written in 2007, and I feel like parts of it are already out of date. Although it is interesting and I think all of the information it provides about oral and visual thinkers, as well as the development of language, is still very valid. I don’t know if the statistics of readers are still declining as they were in 2007. It is likely, but I feel that with the introduction of e-Book technology that the statistics might have already changed. Whether I think it is much better, I doubt it, but I wonder if the decline of readers is still as steep. Plus, I feel like this article does not account for other external forces of the past few years. There have been pushes in reading for pleasure amongst younger audiences, for example with the Harry Potter series, Twilight saga, and the Percy Jackson series. I feel that these sort of literary phenomenon amongst younger culture develops a new group of readers, and more of an incentive for kids to want to read. Also with their oral components such as movies and online/internet forums, there are more places that can get them hooked into reading so to speak. In terms of the brain and thinking modifications we see with people who are more literary thinkers vs. oral thinkers, I am reminded of what we discussion in class. How the internet has caused our attention spans to become shorter and whether or not that’s a good thing. I don’t think we need to worry about people becoming completely illiterate. And I think as we see expansion in the oral technologies (better TV’s), we are also seeing expansion in the literary ones (e-Books).

Ermelino, Louisa. "PW's Panel on Going from Book to E-Book." Publishers Weekly 3 Mar. 2010.PW Daily. Web. 3 Mar. 2010. <http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/451639-PW_s_Panel_on_Going_from_Book_to_e_Book.php>.

This article was written to discuss what happened at the second meeting of Publishers Weekly’s Panel called ‘Think Future: What’s next in book publishing?’ This panel was specifically about ‘From Book to E- Book: Aesthetics, Design and the Digital’. Keynote speakers included Matteo Bologna (founder and creative director of Mucca Design), Charles Nix (partner in the publishing firm Scott & Nix and president of the Type Directors Club), and Andy Hughes (vice president of production and Design at Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group). Bologna started off talking about how the book jacket is the most important marking tool for e-books. Since the reader can no longer feel the book and see its size, ect..this visual impact is the most important. He compares the e-Book publishing situation, to when radio had to deal with the introduction of television. Lastly he describes how all formal rules about cover design for print need to be thrown out, because this new generation will be experiencing e-Books in a whole new way, and not have the memory of the jacket cover on print books. Charles Nix discussed how books can be divided up into three catagories, the Machine, the Meal, and the Metaphor. The Machine book being the books used for information or learning (dictionary,or encyclopedia) only being disposed of when they have either fallen apart or become outdated. The Metaphor book being the coffee table books, where they are displayed in the home for guests to see, and help them infer information about their host. Lastly the Meal book, which is meant to be ‘ingested’ and read by the owner. Nix then discussed the issues with actual text size and text format that publishers are facing. They are trying to determine what the ‘sweet spot’ text is for readers in e-Books, which is the ideal number of characters per line so that readers may comfortably understand and enjoy the text. Also the format for the text on the digital page is an issue, but most e-books seem to have played it safe by using ragged right format to avoid awkward spacing. Andy Hughs discussed how art in the e-Book cover and text has become an issue of conflict. Publishing industry is primarily focused on the principles of art in print books which cannot be applied effectively with e-Books, and how there is a indecision and struggle between textual information and art display. Most publishing companies Hugh says however are still more focused on their print ‘rules’ because e-Books are not yet the primary source of their income. In conclusion Ermelino writes “It's an exciting, confusing time of transition.”

I agree with Bologna that I think publishers need to need to throw out the old rules of printing design in order to develop a new effective and marketable form for e-Books. The covers now have to make up for what the readers lose by not having a print book. I imagine e-Book covers now having flash animation sequences instead of a static image, and interactive elements. Since you can no longer flip the book over to read the reviews or summary/teaser, have the reviews scroll or flash upon the front cover. Maybe make it so that when you click the title, you get the summary/teaser. When you click the authors name you can get the usual short bio with a link to their website where you can find more information and other content. Have moving characters on the front of the book where you can click on them and read a short excerpt from them, or a little bio/teaser. In terms of what Nix talks about with the different types of books, I cant imagine how the Metaphor books would survive in the e-Book format, unless you made everyone else’s ‘libraries’ visible to other people. I know there are applications on Facebook where you can develop a virtual library, not by obtaining the virtual texts but by just marking the books you have read and giving a review. These reviews and books are then visible to all others in that application community. It is probably possible to make your e-Books library visible to others, including what books you have read most, what page you left off in your last book ect…, but the question is, would we really want that? Perhaps they will develop something where you an limit visibility and set privacy standards so you can choose who see’s what. When Hughes discusses the struggle between the art and the digital text, I agree that with e-Book technology the lines become blurred. Putting music, and short flash images, and other art into texts is possible and I am sure it will be done. But I feel like at first it will probably be introduced in moderation, and increase gradually as our brains can learn to handle the extra stimulation.

Epstein, Jason. "Publishing: The Revolutionary Future." The New York Review of Books 11 Mar. 2010. Archives. Web. 03 Mar. 2010. <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23683>.

Epstein starts by comparing the e-Book technology to what the Guttenberg press did to revolutionize the world. He continues by explaining how publishing companies are afraid of adopting it because they are afraid they will become obsolete since what they really know is print technology. The e-Book technology makes it possible that anyone can become a publisher, there is no longer a need for the traditional publishing firm. Now with the e-technology what will most likely become popular is authors outsourcing whatever they need to be done to other individuals (like editing and art work), and as a result retain more of their profits. In this way, the publishing companies will survive. Also they will be able to distribute themselves thanks to technology across the world as computer companies do. Though, actual writing and creation of fiction will most likely still be attributed to one person and not collaboration. But items which are created through collaboration and are time sensitive like the encyclopedia are most likely never to be bound again and will be put exclusively on the web. An with the new ability for anyone to become their own publisher, new ‘ literary geniuses’ will be found around the globe in unlikely places, since more opportunities will be given. And translations of all texts into different languages will become more widely demanded and available. With the decentralization of publishing, book stores will also be able to support authors and become their own type of publishing companies as well. As always when an artistic work is put onto the web there will by copyright infringement issues, so standards will need to be set and adhered to. Authors will lost money because of this and will not have the same opportunities as others in the music business to make up the cost in other areas like performances/merchandise. But how fast everything will really move and what will be the most pivotal changes to get us to that future we will never know until we are able to look back once time has passed. This new technology however will not only enable good enlightening changes, but dangerous ones as well. In a similar was the Gutenberg press enabled Mine Kampf to be mass distributed. Also this digital text is ‘fragile’ because it can be deleted as easily as it is created, so the risk of losing works is high. For this reason, it is likely that printed texts will survive. In terms of lending Epstein believes publishers should explore the self deletion technology, so after information has remained available for a certain period it will self destruct and if the user wishes to see it again they will have to renew their text. He then goes on to discuss his own personal interest in the digital text technology. Most if it has to do with the idea of backlists of older titles. How in the past all the backlist titles were available then as new bookstore retailers came out the space was needed and so many of the back list books were lost. Epstein started his own company so he could save some of this back list books, but list his business edge once the internet became marketable. It was easy for companies like Amazon to still make money and not even have to sell the back listed books, but sell them through other people. With this digital technology the back list books will be enormous, and new types of creative works are becoming available. For example Japan’s cell phone novels. The most dramatic fantasy people predict seems to be the collective one consciousness over the web with the elimination of the individual and emphasis on collaborative. This Epstein says is a fantasy, but the vastness of knowledge that will be available is not. Finally Epstein feels it is only right to mention his biased opinion on the subject, completely preferring print books, and saying that if they were to melt out of his apartment, he wishes he would just melt out of existence too.

I think Epstein draws a very realistic picture about where e-Book technology will probably take us, and I am not sure how I feel about it. I am also of the same mind that I love my print books and have an attachment to them that I can’t feel with a digital copy, but at the same time I am excited about the possibilities e-Books introduce. I would not hesitate for a second to buy an e-Book reader if I believed I could get all my textbooks for school on them, but I will never get rid of my print favorites like “The Sleep Book” by Dr. Seuss, or my copy of the third Harry Potter book. What Epstein says the technology will do to publishing seems to make sense, but I don’t think the breaking down of larger printing corporations will happen very fast. I think that the number of small publishers already is increasing, and will continue to do so, but I don’t know if I think the big companies will ever really die away. I agree that it will make it easier for anyone to write a book and have it published, and because of that we will have to develop our own personal filters to sort out the rubbish so to speak, like we have done with synthesizing information on the internet. I sadly think that it probably is likely that print books will become scarce, but I don’t know if it will happen extremely quickly either. Print books are very romanticized and won’t ever completely die, not just because of their permanence that Epstein discusses. But like records and CD’s, there will always be people who prefer their nostalgia and feel. I am not as concerned with back lists that Epstein talks a lot about because I feel that a lot of things because of the internet, for better or worse, will never go away. There is always a record somewhere online of what has been put on the internet. I think the only way everything would be destroyed is if all the computers and networks simultaneously combusted into lumps of metal and wires. Even if a book was deleted, I’m sure there would be some illegal copy of it floating around somewhere online.

There are more articles I would like to look at before continuing this topic with Essay 2. But overall I feel that both articles and panel summary bring up different and interesting points with the e-Book technology advancing in the publishing field. They have discussed the issues with declining readers and literal thinkers. The design prospects of marketing the e-Books. An how the publishing world will never really be the same again with the e-Book advance. I look forward to exploring this topic further and hope to obtain an even better well rounded perspective.

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