The media landscape is constantly changing. We predict how new innovations may bring existing products and concepts towards an end. New techniques override old and they might have far-reaching effects on behavior, markets, and society. One such example is the book. The history of books is full of change. During thousands of years much has happened when we have moved from clay tablets to Apple tablets. But reading experiences have lived through all kinds of changes. Today we move into the digitized world and we ask what will happen to the printed book and media?
A very interesting reflection on this topic is made by Andrew Piper in Book was there: Reading in electronic times (University of Chicago Press, 2012) http://bookwasthere.org/ Andrew Piper, professor of European and German literature at McGill University, focuses on the reading experience rather than on the format of the book. Reading is the glue that keeps the history of books going on. How do we read? How do we touch the book, the tablet, how do we share and navigate what we read, where do we read? It is obvious that reading a printed book is different from reading an e-book, from a tablet. But does it mean that one way is better than the other? The tablet brings qualities into the reading experience that is not possible with the printed book like zooming and navigating. Reading a printed book entails the sense of entering another world when holding the book, illustrated by the covers of the book. Reading a book is in a way a subjective activity but at the same time we like to share the experience. This is something that is underlined in our landscape of social media and brings new dimensions to our reading experiences.
Then again we might wonder why we share online when reading basically is a subjective activity. The New York Times Customer Insight Group has studied what drives people to share information online, http://nytmarketing.whsites.net/mediakit/pos/ Our social media environment is built on interactivity. We share more content, from more sources, with more people, more often, and more quickly. Sharing and reading other people’s responses help to understand and process information and experiences. We share because it is a way to support causes or issues we care about and we feel more involved in the world.
Piper asks “Can we bridge the gap between the computational and the literal and instead posit their intersection as a new core of intellectual life? Will this not be a prerequisite for the literacy of the future?… Our digital future is indelibly linked to our bibliographic past…” Some parts of the printed reality will remain and will be interwoven with the digital present. We worry that young generations don’t read properly because they don’t read printed newspapers or books. We worry that they get too fragmented knowledge structures and are not able to contextualize. On the other hand they connect what they read with others, share online, and build new forms of contexts.
We live in the middle of media history. What will come, we don’t know. But we should not worry, we will continue reading, adjusting to new forms and contexts. /Gunilla