Sunday, July 18, 2010

LA Times > Electronic Reading Devices Are Transforming The Concept Of A Book

Digital tools advance beyond screens that talk and play videos, connecting readers to authors and online fan communities.

Alex Pham and David Sarno > Los Angeles Times >  July 18, 2010

Emma Teitgen, 12, thought the chemistry book her teacher recommended would make perfect bedside reading. Perfect because it might help her fall asleep.

Then she downloaded "The Elements: A Visual Exploration" to her iPad. Instead of making her drowsy, it blossomed in her hands. The 118 chemical elements, from hydrogen to ununoctium, came alive in vivid images that could be rotated with a swipe of the finger.


More than 550 years after Johannes Gutenberg printed 180 copies of the Bible on paper and vellum, new technologies as revolutionary as the printing press are changing the concept of a book and what it means to be literate. Sound, animation and the ability to connect to the Internet have created the notion of a living book that can establish an entirely new kind of relationship with readers.

As electronic reading devices evolve and proliferate, books are increasingly able to talk to readers, quiz them on their grasp of the material, play videos to illustrate a point or connect them with a community of fellow readers. The same technology allows readers to reach out to authors, provide instant reaction and even become creative collaborators, influencing plot developments and the writer's use of dramatic devices.


"There is not a single aspect of book publishing that digital won't touch," said Carolyn KroReidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster. "It is transformational."


Vook (the name is a mash-up of "video" and "book") has published more than two dozen titles, including "Reckless Road," which describes the early days of heavy metal band Guns N' Roses. "Reckless Road" weaves in dozens of videos of the L.A. band's early performances and interviews with band members and groupies.

The videos and other digital features are designed to "project the emotion of the book without getting in the way of the story," said Brad Inman, Vook's chief executive and a former real estate columnist for the San Francisco Examiner. "We want to revive the passion for traditional narrative. Multimedia could be a catalyst for spawning more reading."


Tim O'Reilly, whose O'Reilly Media in Sebastopol, Calif., is at the forefront of designing and distributing digital books over the Internet and on mobile devices, said technology has the power to "broaden our thinking about what a book does."


In addition to displaying pages from a book, digital e-readers can read them aloud, opening up a literary trove for the blind and the visually impaired who have long had only a thin selection of audio and Braille books to choose from. Devices made by Inc. and Intel Corp. are able to convert text into speech.


Digital technology is also transforming reading from a famously solitary experience into a social one.

The newest generation of readers -- the texting, chatting, YouTubing kids for whom the term "offline" sounds quaint -- has run circles around the fusty publishing process, keeping its favorite stories alive online long after they're done reading the books.


"They're extending the world by creating new characters," Westerfeld said. "That's what good readers do. They take apart the narrative engine and, examining the different parts, they ask how things could have been different." Authors are pulled into the scene by fans who barrage them with e-mail to share their reactions, ask how plots came about and glean hints of what will happen in the next novel.


On, thousands of cellphone-toting authors write novels via text message, one or two sentences at a time. Aspiring writers can sign up on the free site and begin writing, either from phones or computers. [snip]


Whereas printed texts often are linear paths paved by the author chapter by chapter, digital books encourage readers to click here or tap there, launching them on side journeys before they even reach the bottom of a page. Some scholars fear that this is breeding a generation of readers who won't have the attention span to get through "The Catcher in the Rye," let alone "Moby-Dick."

"Reading well is like playing the piano or the violin," said the poet and critic Dana Gioia, former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. "It is a high-level cognitive ability that requires long-term practice. I worry that those mechanisms in our culture that used to take a child and have him or her learn more words and more complex syntax are breaking down."

>>> Editorial Comment: IMHO >Noooooo.... It's All About Imagination  > Get A Clue ... .

[Yes !!! >] Dr. Gary Small, director of the Center on Aging at UCLA and author of "iBrain," said Internet use activated more parts of the brain than reading a book did.

On the other hand, online readers often demonstrate what Small calls "continuous partial attention" as they click from one link to the next. The risk is that we become mindless ants following endless crumbs of digital data. "People tend to ask whether this is good or bad," he said. "My response is that the tech train is out of the station, and it's impossible to stop."

Editorial Comment: The 'iBrain' Is Here >>>

BTW: I Am Working On A Major Post On This Topic > How's This For A (Working) Title: _Forever Young(er)  > How The ReConfigured Brain And Mind Will Transform Our Life and Lives_ [:-)] / Stay Tuned >>>

Source And Full Text Available At


  1. Where's the beef?

  2. There are many "book artists" that are involved in paper making, printing, binding and all dimensions in making of a physical object. Some are interested in the "historic" and others are more contemporary "artists".

    We are aware of illuminated manuscripts and hand lettered books, the changes that came with the printing press, and now with electronic delivery.

    What changes with each innovation? We can't say, simply, what is lost and what is gained. Ontologically there are changes and the episteme needs revisitation.

    Is there a way to grasp the issues other than the simplistic and obvious?


    tom abeles


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