One of this weeks readings was a section from a book, The End of Books — Or Books Without End?: Reading Interactive Narratives, by Douglas, J. Yellowlees. It was quite long, which was rather taxing, but it did make some interesting points about several issues, including the future of the book in the face of e-readers and new technologies.
One interesting passage argued that even though technology has passed the book by, history suggests to us that this does not necessarily mean the end of the book.
“Even if ou became used to reading in this way, it is hardly likely that digital media like hypertext are going to supersede books, regardless of how much critics like Miller or Birkirts fret over the fate of the book and le mot juste. Radio and cinema went foraging for slightly different niches once television debuted on the scene, and ballooning numbers of video rentals, airings on premium cable and satellite channels, and pay-per-view showings have all helped recoup losses for films that were absolute dogs at the box office – and unexpected boom for Hollywood. It is hard to imagine books becoming the horse of the twenty-first century – a possession that has lost so much of it’s utility that only the well-to-do can afford to have one around.”
The article places the discussion in the context of hypertext, and how these kinds of technologies will affect traditional reading experiences. What, for example, would happen if you were never able to read the same book twice? And that by virtue of your past experience, will read a text one way, as opposed to if you reread it again two weeks later?
This question is much less of a hypothetical example and more of a reality once we admit the possibility of the self being as fluid as a choose-your-own-adventure novel. The question then becomes, if we are now being forced to be aware of this fluidity of our own perception in terms of the different texts we consume through specifically built structures like hypertext, will that affect our conscious reading of traditional paper books?
If we become aware of the fact that we never take the same path through Wikipedia twice, even when searching for the same information, then will that awareness extend to when we are reading a hard cover of Jane Austen? Will we begin to consciously realise that our attitudes to a character we may have hates on our last reading, are perfectly able to change on this reading due to a near infinite number of different variables?
The question was summed rather perfectly by Brian, when he compared the discussion to the quote by the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”