Why digital text is here stay


As if anyone would even argue this point, I just had a flash that served as one more reminder why digital text is here to stay. This is also why The Cloud is here to stay, and why eReaders are here to stay, and why the discipline of close reading is here to stay. Here’s what happened.

I was crafting an e-mail to a friend about a possible digital media study this upcoming fall. In my message, I decided to mention Jonah Lehrer’s book … again. Have I told you about his book, Imagine, lately? Do you need the hyperlink so you can buy it? Am I a sycophant yet? Anyway, there was a phrase from his book that I wanted to use (i.e., claim as my own), but I couldn’t remember it. I reached to get my Kindle, and realized it was at home, as are all of my other devices that have this book on it. So, I looked up Kindle on Google, and found out they have a Cloud Reader for computers. Why wouldn’t they? I mean, Amazon can sync my other devices so that when I put one down and pick up another later on, I start reading right where I left off. In a matter of 5 or so clicks, I was looking at Lehrer’s book at the exact place where I stopped reading last night. I located the phrase (meta-idea), and went right back to my e-mail. Actually, I came right to my blog, then I will get back to my e-mail … after lunch.

This kind of thing was not even possible a few years ago. If I needed to look at something in a book, I had to either bring the book with me or wait until I got home, to my office, etc. Now I have every book I own (in digital format) right in front of me whenever I need to look something up. I don’t think I will ever buy another printed book again. I’m sure publishers will still send me copies of books to review, but if they ever give me the option, I want the eBook. It’s important to note, I still had to read the eBook. If I want to make a note, I have to actually make the note. If something in one book makes me think of something in another book, I have to be disciplined enough to write it down before I forget. The eBook (or any digital media, for that matter) does not do the thinking for you, but boy oh boy, does it change the way I approach my scholarship. I love the Web because I find all kinds of resources I never knew existed, but what I really love is to be able to reference those resources I have already read, thought about, re-read, took notes on, and integrated into my existing knowledge base. The perfect storm of taking the time to sit still and read something, mixed with ubiquitous access when I can’t remember a phrase or term or quotation. It’s the epitome of distributed cognition, to me.

Oh, and my back doesn’t hurt anymore from lugging around all those books.

One thought on “Why digital text is here stay

  1. I bought┬áLehrer’s book as an eBook, but bought it from Apple for iBooks instead of buying it for Amazon because I had recently redeemed an iTunes gift card. I wish I’d bought it for Amazon, however, I like how Amazon syncs the highlights and notes you make to the cloud and lets you directly share them via a website even when you read on multiple devices. At this point Apple doesn’t have any kind of cloud sync for eBook notes, they remain local on the device from what I can figure out.

    I totally agree being able to have our books with us at almost all times is transformative. I also think it’s remarkable to be able to readily copy and paste, and share notes. Because of DRM on the book in iBooks it’s not possible to directly copy and paste, but this week I learned if I highlight a passage and choose ‘define’ then those words become copiable inside the dictionary window of iBooks. It’s limited how much text you can get at a time, but at least it’s a way to digitally copy and paste even from DRM books.

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