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Kindle and other E-readers


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#121 M. Leary

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 11:20 AM

Just upgraded to a Kindle Touch.

Sorry, Franzen.

#122 opus

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 11:38 AM

And it looks like I'll be getting one for my birthday. So I guess I'm doing my own bit to bring about civilization's end.

Also, it's hard for me to take anything he says seriously when he says some deplorable like this:

Franzen said he took comfort from knowing he will not be here in 50 years’ time to find out if books have become obsolete.

“I’m amused by how intent people are on making human beings immortal or at least extremely long-lived,” he joked.

“One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], ‘Well, that won’t have to be my problem’. Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don’t see how you could stand it psychologically.”

It may not be my problem (if it is a problem, that is), but it will be my kids' problem, and their kids' as well. To deny that strikes me as completely selfish.

Edited by opus, 31 January 2012 - 11:42 AM.


#123 Overstreet

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 11:40 AM

Lauren Winner on book, Kindles, and Alan Jacobs' The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.

Edited by Overstreet, 31 January 2012 - 11:41 AM.


#124 J. Henry Waugh

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:22 PM

I was a late adapter to Kindle. Part of the reason I was so slow is that I thought I would miss the library too much. (The money was part of it too).

When I think back to the books I've read in the past two years (I still get new releases from the library), there is no difference--at all--between the stories I read on a Kindle and the stories I read on paper.

#125 Andy Whitman

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 12:48 PM

I was a late adapter to Kindle. Part of the reason I was so slow is that I thought I would miss the library too much. (The money was part of it too).

When I think back to the books I've read in the past two years (I still get new releases from the library), there is no difference--at all--between the stories I read on a Kindle and the stories I read on paper.

There is some difference for me, but the difference is skewed in the direction of classic works of literature because they are free on the Kindle. So the Kindle has had the devastating effect of making it easier for me to read the canon of western literature that I always found excuses to avoid or ignore.

Franzen is silly. Perhaps he could start by explaining how that dog-eared, stained paperback is more permanent than an electronic file.

#126 M. Leary

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 01:07 PM

And for the record, this is exactly what critics of the printing press said when human culture moved from hand transcription to movable type.

The sense of permenance associated with the hand-written word still obtains in the sense that we accord such ancient scribal products much significance, as we rightly should. They are works of art.

#127 Scholar's Parrot

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 01:30 PM

http://www.roughtype..._publishers.php

Good, short blog post by Nicolas Carr suggesting that publishers should give ebooks away with printed books.

#128 Joel C

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 01:43 PM

And for the record, this is exactly what critics of the printing press said when human culture moved from hand transcription to movable type.

The sense of permenance associated with the hand-written word still obtains in the sense that we accord such ancient scribal products much significance, as we rightly should. They are works of art.

I think for me, less it's less about permanence and more about the loss of process involved. Even in contemporary times, bound books, especially higher quality copies, take time to produce. Formatting and layout, design, cutting, all those things are perhaps seemingly insignificant in the long run. But e-books sometimes strike me as too easy.

To me, it's as detrimental to the writer as to the reader. Every step we take in the literary world toward technological sophistication, we take a step out of the process, of thinking through each word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. From handwriting to the typewriter, from the typewriter to the keyboard. And now, in all likelihood, from the keyboard to voice-to-text recognition. The whole of writing will take on an entirely different personality, one that involves more immediate results and less wrangling.

Perhaps I'm being too worrisome. But it feels like the move to e-reading is perhaps subtly driven by cultural subconscious notion to integrate reading into the broader digital/media experience in a way it wasn't before—on both the reading and writing ends of things—rather than to maintain it as a set-apart paradigm, which functions in different ways, and often, for different reasons.

This is not to say I don't have iBooks and Logos Bible Software on my iPhone, but I do feel occasionally like I'm illegitimizing the event—the encounter—of reading, even if in a small way.

Edited by Joel C, 31 January 2012 - 01:44 PM.


#129 Andy Whitman

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 01:53 PM

To me, it's as detrimental to the writer as to the reader. Every step we take in the literary world toward technological sophistication, we take a step out of the process, of thinking through each word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. From handwriting to the typewriter, from the typewriter to the keyboard. And now, in all likelihood, from the keyboard to voice-to-text recognition. The whole of writing will take on an entirely different personality, one that involves more immediate results and less wrangling.

The first three examples simply use different tools to accomplish the same end. The last example isn't writing at all; it's speaking. And anyone who has ever had to transcribe incoherent thoughts that are babbled into a tape recorder knows how different that is from writing.

I wouldn't worry about the future of writing. There is no substitute for the real thing. But I'm not ungrateful for keyboards and word processing applications. I'm sure there are people who continue to write longhand because anything less seems like a betrayal of the process. More power to them, I suppose. But I'm happy with the ability to edit and rewrite on the fly.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 31 January 2012 - 01:53 PM.


#130 David Smedberg

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 02:19 PM

Every step we take in the literary world toward technological sophistication, we take a step out of the process, of thinking through each word, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. From handwriting to the typewriter, from the typewriter to the keyboard. And now, in all likelihood, from the keyboard to voice-to-text recognition. The whole of writing will take on an entirely different personality, one that involves more immediate results and less wrangling.

2 months ago, I would have nodded in agreement, but my experience has recently taken a U-turn, when I got the Duo I mentioned above. Windows 7 includes handwriting recognition software, so using the stylus I am now able to handwrite on the screen using a stylus, and it will convert my writing into ordinary computer text. Ever since my freshman year of college, I have been wanting to be able to write my essays, etc., by hand, but I couldn't because they had to be printed out from the computer--now I can have the best of both worlds.

(P.S. I am typing this post, because I'm at my work computer. But I wish I was writing it... :P)

Edited by David Smedberg, 31 January 2012 - 02:20 PM.


#131 Christian

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 02:31 PM

Jacobs' thoughts on ereaders, linked above, have reassured me about the devices (I still don't have one but would like one, if only to satisfy my curiosity about them). However, Nicolas Carr's The Shallows has convinced me that if I get an e-reader, it should be a single-purpose device, not a 3G/Tablet/Internet-ready/Rewire-Your-Brain-Permanently device.

(Not that one's brain wouldn't be rewired by a standalone e-reader. Just ... not as much.)

#132 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 02:44 PM

I don't think Franzen really makes it, but I do think there is a valid argument on the disadvantages of E-Books. It's a yet to be written essay that's been lurking around my mind for a couple years, but it's got to be pretty hard to argue without just resorting to either mere nostalgia about how nice a printed book makes me feel or to my own personal, limited and subjective experiences.

Possibilities include:
- does a printed book do something to our memories that a computer/kindle screen doesn't? It's probable that storytellers within an oral tradition have more powerful memories than storytellers who would hand-write their own works, just as it's probable that more of what you write stays in your brain when you hand-write it than when you type it out on a computer.
- is there personal interaction that is lost when you go from a physical printed book to a screen? I certainly remember pages and places in books because I take the time to underline them, write in the margins, fold corners of the page to find them later, etc. This, however, could possibly be remedied simply by digitizing the ability to, oh say, underline a quote on a page of one's e-book (in fact, I'm pretty sure this ability already exists in some formats). But would that be the same? Possibly.
- does reading from a physical printed object affect the way that you think (as opposed to reading electronic or battery-powered screens)? My instinct is that it does, but I have yet been able to put why into words, so maybe the instinct is wrong.

#133 Christian

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 02:55 PM

I don't think Franzen really makes it, but I do think there is a valid argument on the disadvantages of E-Books. It's a yet to be written essay that's been lurking around my mind for a couple years, but it's got to be pretty hard to argue without just resorting to either mere nostalgia about how nice a printed book makes me feel or to my own personal, limited and subjective experiences.

Possibilities include:
- does a printed book do something to our memories that a computer/kindle screen doesn't? It's probable that storytellers within an oral tradition have more powerful memories than storytellers who would hand-write their own works, just as it's probable that more of what you write stays in your brain when you hand-write it than when you type it out on a computer.
- is there personal interaction that is lost when you go from a physical printed book to a screen? I certainly remember pages and places in books because I take the time to underline them, write in the margins, fold corners of the page to find them later, etc. This, however, could possibly be remedied simply by digitizing the ability to, oh say, underline a quote on a page of one's e-book (in fact, I'm pretty sure this ability already exists in some formats). But would that be the same? Possibly.
- does reading from a physical printed object affect the way that you think (as opposed to reading electronic or battery-powered screens)? My instinct is that it does, but I have yet been able to put why into words, so maybe the instinct is wrong.

To underline what I wrote earlier, Jacobs' and Carr's books cover these points to various degrees. I'd encourage you to seek them out. (I know you had earlier planned to read Jacobs.)

Edited by Christian, 31 January 2012 - 05:34 PM.


#134 opus

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 04:12 PM

In Franzen's defense, this picture wouldn't be nearly so cute if my son was sleeping with a Kindle or Nook.

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#135 Joel C

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 07:25 PM

The first three examples simply use different tools to accomplish the same end. The last example isn't writing at all; it's speaking. And anyone who has ever had to transcribe incoherent thoughts that are babbled into a tape recorder knows how different that is from writing.

Andy, the fact that the last example is speaking rather than writing is my point exactly. Voice to text is becoming so streamlined (I say this as an regular Siri user) that for many people this will replace the process of typing or writing something out.

And I guess I just disagree that the "different tools" accomplish the same end. Yes, the end result is that the thoughts of the writer are captured on a blank page/screen. However, I tend to hold that the method engages the mind of the writer in subtle but vital ways. When someone has to put more work into correcting a mistake/unwanted portions of text (whiting out wrong/unwanted words on a typewritten page, as one example), they are by virtue of consequence more careful in their phrasing, and consider each word more fully simply by merit of thinking about it longer. These little stones are the beginnings of the landslide of effective writing, in my own perspective.

As a slight rabbit trail to attempt to illustrate the consequences of this change, I have a weird side-thought, which I'm going to throw into this conversation, and allow others to parse for me and apply at will. During my composition studies at Berklee, I found that when using digital scoring software, such as Finale, which has real-time MIDI playback, I found it much harder to go back to pencil and staff paper and think/hear music out straight from my head. I've always had a fairly strong inner ear, but the software allowed me to become out of practice of conjuring up ideas and structures, and transferring them onto blank paper. Many of my professors warned about this, and some even required music to be strictly written out. Since graduating, I've tried to return to writing composition straight from memory as much as possible, or, if needed, I'll use a piano. It engages my brain much more fully than if I had the technology doing the work for me, and though it takes me longer, I feel more in command of the score when I actually have to write out every note, rather than having copy/paste available to me.

Apply that as loosely or closely as you will to the practice of writing - and, by relation, reading.

2 months ago, I would have nodded in agreement, but my experience has recently taken a U-turn, when I got the Duo I mentioned above. Windows 7 includes handwriting recognition software, so using the stylus I am now able to handwrite on the screen using a stylus, and it will convert my writing into ordinary computer text. Ever since my freshman year of college, I have been wanting to be able to write my essays, etc., by hand, but I couldn't because they had to be printed out from the computer--now I can have the best of both worlds.

(P.S. I am typing this post, because I'm at my work computer. But I wish I was writing it... :P)

Heh. Your last sentence is why I would tend to think that such tools are more for novelty than here to stay, but I imagine handwriting-to-digital-text is a nice improvement indeed to the personal computing experience.

Edited by Joel C, 31 January 2012 - 07:27 PM.


#136 Andy Whitman

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 10:27 PM


The first three examples simply use different tools to accomplish the same end. The last example isn't writing at all; it's speaking. And anyone who has ever had to transcribe incoherent thoughts that are babbled into a tape recorder knows how different that is from writing.

Andy, the fact that the last example is speaking rather than writing is my point exactly. Voice to text is becoming so streamlined (I say this as an regular Siri user) that for many people this will replace the process of typing or writing something out.

And I guess I just disagree that the "different tools" accomplish the same end. Yes, the end result is that the thoughts of the writer are captured on a blank page/screen. However, I tend to hold that the method engages the mind of the writer in subtle but vital ways. When someone has to put more work into correcting a mistake/unwanted portions of text (whiting out wrong/unwanted words on a typewritten page, as one example), they are by virtue of consequence more careful in their phrasing, and consider each word more fully simply by merit of thinking about it longer. These little stones are the beginnings of the landslide of effective writing, in my own perspective.

I suppose it depends on the purpose of the "writing." If someone is composing a grocery list, or something else that simply requires the quick capture of information, then I suppose voice-to-text technology might be a viable means of writing.

But real writing? Writing that requires precision of language? Writing that requires creativity of expression? It doesn't matter whether it's done longhand, on a typewriter, or on a keyboard with a word processor. That kind of writing takes a lot of time, and a lot of thought, and always will. I can't tell you how much time I spend writing, and re-writing, and then re-writing again if I have to write something for publication. A one-page review will often go through five or six revisions over many days. Who cares whether someone uses white-out, or merely deletes old text and enters new text? Real writing evolves. It always has, and always will. I don't think the tool matters.

And I'm a fan of keyboards and word processing applications. I can't say I miss the days of white-out at all. Longhand? No one could read it. I couldn't even read it. Thank God for standardized fonts.

Edited by Andy Whitman, 31 January 2012 - 10:28 PM.


#137 Joel C

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 01:44 AM

I suppose it depends on the purpose of the "writing." If someone is composing a grocery list, or something else that simply requires the quick capture of information, then I suppose voice-to-text technology might be a viable means of writing.

I think, perhaps, you are grossly underestimating the potential for voice-to-text software.

But real writing? Writing that requires precision of language? Writing that requires creativity of expression? It doesn't matter whether it's done longhand, on a typewriter, or on a keyboard with a word processor. That kind of writing takes a lot of time, and a lot of thought, and always will. I can't tell you how much time I spend writing, and re-writing, and then re-writing again if I have to write something for publication. A one-page review will often go through five or six revisions over many days. Who cares whether someone uses white-out, or merely deletes old text and enters new text? Real writing evolves. It always has, and always will. I don't think the tool matters.

Well I care for one. Deleting and entering new text on a word processing program takes a split second. There are no consequences to writing something inaccurately, especially in regard to grammar and punctuation, something for which most programs now have autocorrect. Even if you have five or six drafts, the process of editing them is vastly simplified compared even to typewriting; consider copying/pasting in a word processing program compared to a typewritten draft. I tend to think that when there are more consequences, when it takes longer to get a thought out onto a page—and to go back and edit that thought later—there will be more care and thought put into the process. Besides the fact that when I use word processing, I'm constantly surrounded by other streams of information—internet, email, skype. I don't know about you, but I find it very difficult to shut those noises out when typing up a document in a word processor, no matter how intentional I tell myself I'll be. It's far too easy to get distracted. Which plays into my point that everything is becoming integrated, and the process is being eliminated as much as possible by those with the power to do it.

Ftr, I'm not speaking from inexperience about professional writing; both my parents are published authors, and my father is a professional editor, so I know what it looks like to do copy and content-editing.

And I'm a fan of keyboards and word processing applications. I can't say I miss the days of white-out at all. Longhand? No one could read it. I couldn't even read it. Thank God for standardized fonts.

I'm not trying to dismiss word processing as an invalid or dangerous medium. I use it all the time, of course. I'm using it right now. But I am asking you and others to consider if there might be consequences that come about because of it. There certainly have been for me.

Edited by Joel C, 01 February 2012 - 01:45 AM.


#138 David Smedberg

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 10:01 AM

Jacobs' thoughts on ereaders, linked above, have reassured me about the devices (I still don't have one but would like one, if only to satisfy my curiosity about them). However, Nicolas Carr's The Shallows has convinced me that if I get an e-reader, it should be a single-purpose device, not a 3G/Tablet/Internet-ready/Rewire-Your-Brain-Permanently device.

Christian, if you do end up getting one, note that if you are interested in a NY Times subscription, you can a Nook Simple Touch for free.

#139 Andy Whitman

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Posted 01 February 2012 - 11:16 AM


I suppose it depends on the purpose of the "writing." If someone is composing a grocery list, or something else that simply requires the quick capture of information, then I suppose voice-to-text technology might be a viable means of writing.

I think, perhaps, you are grossly underestimating the potential for voice-to-text software.

But real writing? Writing that requires precision of language? Writing that requires creativity of expression? It doesn't matter whether it's done longhand, on a typewriter, or on a keyboard with a word processor. That kind of writing takes a lot of time, and a lot of thought, and always will. I can't tell you how much time I spend writing, and re-writing, and then re-writing again if I have to write something for publication. A one-page review will often go through five or six revisions over many days. Who cares whether someone uses white-out, or merely deletes old text and enters new text? Real writing evolves. It always has, and always will. I don't think the tool matters.

Well I care for one. Deleting and entering new text on a word processing program takes a split second. There are no consequences to writing something inaccurately, especially in regard to grammar and punctuation, something for which most programs now have autocorrect. Even if you have five or six drafts, the process of editing them is vastly simplified compared even to typewriting; consider copying/pasting in a word processing program compared to a typewritten draft. I tend to think that when there are more consequences, when it takes longer to get a thought out onto a page—and to go back and edit that thought later—there will be more care and thought put into the process. Besides the fact that when I use word processing, I'm constantly surrounded by other streams of information—internet, email, skype. I don't know about you, but I find it very difficult to shut those noises out when typing up a document in a word processor, no matter how intentional I tell myself I'll be. It's far too easy to get distracted. Which plays into my point that everything is becoming integrated, and the process is being eliminated as much as possible by those with the power to do it.

I think those who don't care about writing will use whatever shortcuts are at their disposal and produce sloppy writing. And those who do care about writing will continue to take their time, think, write, and revise, regardless of whether they use a notepad, a typewriter, or pixels on a monitor.

I'm not trying to disparage your points, Joel, and I'm certainly in favor of writers thinking long and well about what they write. But I have no nostalgic longing for the good ol' days of illegible handwriting or having to start over on a typewritten page any time I made a mistake. Those are major distractions in themselves; writing becomes more about typing than creative or precise expression. Yes, there are distractions with keyboards and computer monitors. But as a master of procrastination and avoidance, I think I can say that those are issues about my character, and they would be there regardless of the medium I chose to express my thoughts. Writing is hard work. There is no substitute for buckling down and doing it. If I'm writing about music, I typically alternate between bouts of listening to the music and sitting in silence in front of a keyboard. If I'm not writing about music, then I try to sit in silence in front of a keyboard. And if I mistype a word, as I frequently do, or if I simply don't like the way I've expressed something, then I sit, think, and rewrite. The process is much the same as it's always been, but I spend less time typing and more time writing.

#140 J. Henry Waugh

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Posted 07 February 2012 - 04:20 PM

There is some difference for me, but the difference is skewed in the direction of classic works of literature because they are free on the Kindle. So the Kindle has had the devastating effect of making it easier for me to read the canon of western literature that I always found excuses to avoid or ignore.



Would you chime in with any favorites that you've specifically read for free on Kindle? (Anyone's contributions would be welcome). I must confess that my eye for the wonderful work of Project Gutenberg is bigger than my stomach, as I've yet to tackle the great Russian books I'm sitting on. My favorite Project Gutenberg read so far has been The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and re-reading Twain for the first time since high school.