A while back I published a post called I hate books, in which I wrote about how fed up I am with books being published on dead trees. My pal Maria wrote a rebuttal, I love books where she wrote about the appeal of words printed on paper.
In my post I mentioned the convenience of ebooks. A Wall Street Journal article, How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write goes a thousand miles further than that. Steven Johnson suggests that before long instant, online access to books will produce deep change to how we find books, how we think about them, how we read them and even how we write them:
Now that books are finally entering the world of networked, digital text, they will undergo the same transformation that Web pages have experienced over the past 15 years.
… With books becoming part of this universe, “booklogs” will prosper, with readers taking inspiring or infuriating passages out of books and commenting on them in public. Google will begin indexing and ranking individual pages and paragraphs from books based on the online chatter about them. (As the writer and futurist Kevin Kelly says, “In the new world of books, every bit informs another; every page reads all the other pages.”) You’ll read a puzzling passage from a novel and then instantly browse through dozens of comments from readers around the world, annotating, explaining or debating the passage’s true meaning.
Think of it as a permanent, global book club …
If you have any interest at all in books you really should read his whole article — it’s fascinating and deeply thought-provoking.
Aside: he mentions that the Aha experience that provoked his article came about because of the Kindle, and the ease with which he was able to stop reading one book, purchase and read another. We don’t yet have access to the Kindle in New Zealand.
I’ve been reading books on handheld screens for at least a decade now — I started when I had a Handspring Visor. My current device of choice is an iPod touch. The selection of items I want to read is limited though.
It’ll be interesting to discover what the Kindle will allow, once it gets here.