Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The book is dead! Long live the book!

Just ran across this today, about the "death" of the book. The final paragraph sums it up (although I encourage you to read it all):
All the handwringing that the book is dead is really directed to the “books that are really not books,” the kind of things enumerated above that were published as books at a time when that was, however inadequate, the most viable format. The long-form text, on the other hand, has no real competition outside of the entertainment area, where Netflix and HBO compete with the commercial novel (but not, for the most part, with the literary novel). For all our talk about reduced attention spans, some ideas require space to stretch out in, some areas need extended syntheses. It is a mistake to make a book more like the Web, valuable as Web-like publications are. But they are different kinds of publications. The future of the long-form text, the core meaning of a book, is in making it more like itself.
<idle musing>
I would take issue with reference materials being better digitally. There’s still a lot to be said for the paper dictionary/lexicon. I still reach for BDAG/LSJ/HALOT/BDB/DCH—there’s something about a paper version that makes it easier to pick up a lot of info in a quick glance and then go deeper. I have electronic versions of most of those, but find I rarely use them as opposed to the paper version.

That also goes for text editions. I find navigating a text with an apparatus criticus to be easier on paper—although I'm sure others would disagree with me there.

Sure, the hyperlinking is nice—and I take advantage of that. But, the initial look-up (for me) is easier via paper. Mind you, that's not because I'm a amateur at things digital—I built my first computer back in 1982 and have been on the Internet since 1995. I even ran an IT department for five years and had a network running Linux, BSD, and Windows in my basement for several years. But, there are things that are better on paper, just as there are things that are better digitally.
</idle musing>


Tim Bulkeley said...

Yes. To much discussion (from both 'sides') denies that the other medium is both better and worse. On the whole (and taking the rough with the smooth, Minister) e-text is better for short form interlinked works, likewise (but reversed) paper (or for people like me an e-text that mimics paper read on a reflective screen) tends (all other things being equal, which they never are) for long form works.

One result of the failure to consider the very different affordances of the two media is e-books are mere shadows of their paper originals instead of being both more and less. And the occasional paper book which is a pale imitation of an e-text. I (because of my history) think of the Smyth and Helwys Commentary series http://www.helwys.com/smyth-helwys-bible-commentary/. (As I have been saying for a while now: "Form, Medium and Function: The Rhetorics and Poetics of Text and Hypertext in Humanities Publishing", International Journal of the Book 1, 2003, 317-327 [https://www.academia.edu/7365174/Form_Medium_and_Function_the_Rhetorics_and_Poetics_of_Text_and_Hypertext_in_Humanities_Publishing_Main_Description]

Tim Bulkeley said...

PS on looking further at the S & H website I see that they now downplay or remove the claims that this series is 'hypertext' rather it is now claimed to be 'innovative'...

Nick Norelli said...

I can't tell you how often I reach for a physical bible to look up a passage while I'm sitting at my desk looking at the computer on which I have Accordance & BibleWorks. Would it be easier to search in those programs? Probably. But it's never as satisfying as thumbing through the pages of a real book.