Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Reading Experience: Are Ebook Readers the Next Big Thing?

You may have seen this video that's been making the rounds the last couple of years.

The joke is that, back in the middle ages, the "codex" (a flat book, with separate pages bound between two covers) was a revolutionary new technology that took the Western world by storm, pretty much putting the scroll-book industry out of business. This happened, by the way, largely because of the Christian Bible, which people wanted to be able to peruse quickly and easily, and, probably, keep it all together instead of on umpty-jillion separate scrolls. (LOTS has been written on how the spread of Christianity helped popularize the codex -- here's one example from Catholic apologist, Jimmy Akin.) Very soon, the obvious advantages of this new form of book spread, making multi-volume rolled books a thing of the past. (Jews, however, to this day scorn the "new-fangled" technology of the codex in liturgical use, requiring each synagogue to have a scroll of the Torah, from which the sacred texts are read during worship.)

With the increasing proliferation of electronic gadgets designed especially for reading digital texts (ebooks), however, some people are beginning to question whether such specialty appliances will soon make "tangible books" a relic of the past, much as the codex supplanted the scroll many centuries ago. As a card-carrying "bookie," I've always pooh-poohed this idea, but I'm beginning to feel the allure of devices such as the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. I have perhaps a thousand old-fashioned "tangible books," and I will probably continue to acquire more, but I'm already starting to collect "ebooks," which exist only in digital form, needing some kind of electronic device to translate them into "type" on a "page."


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