There is a thoughtful short article in the September issue of The Walrus by Jon Evans, “Apocalypse Soon”. The focus of the article is on the future of online texts, or ebooks, and ebook readers. Although the author makes a number of overgeneralizations, there is a good point about why e-books have so far only captured a small percentage of the market – 0.2% according to Evans. Evans partially explains this by reference to “contrast”, which print has an electronic text doesn’t, and goes on to praise the virtues of the Sony Reader.
We actually purchased a Sony reader at UVic, thanks to Rich McCue who managed to bring one back from the US when he was at the CALI conference; apparently, they aren’t available in Canada. I have tried it, and I can attest that Evans is right; the reader really does bridge the gap between print and electronic. What was surprising though was how few e-books were actually available, and particularly law texts.
I suppose I am really reflecting on the same issues as in previous post in August by Simon and Dominic although from a different viewpoint.
But one of the issues with text that has been on my mind are the ways in which readers use the text. As Librarians we are trained to discourage writing in the margins of books, but I was reading in a chapter of a book by Basbanes, Every Book is Reader that in fact the marginalia of many books owned by scholars and thinkers are really part of the intellectual fabric of how the reader interacts with the text. There is a whole text on this: H. J. Jackson, Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books Wikipedia has an entry for marginalia which also points out that Sony had at one time introduced a reader that allowed the creation of marginalia in text.
It seems to me one of the problems with digital text, particularly in pdf, is that you can’t do this, so that in some ways it is easy to interact and incorporate paper text into your thinking than it is the electronic.
But I am interested in what others have to say about this.