18 junio 2013


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Whatever happened to paper books!

Delfina Morganti Hernández DE ARTÍCULOS Y REVISIONES

WHEN MR GUTENBERG'S MOVABLE TYPE PRINTING PRESS began to operate in 1450, the times of copying text by hand gradually began to envision their sharp end. While this advance implied a major day for book and book reading itself, the possibility of a massive distribution of text was also about to change the history of accessibility to reading. Six or so centuries later, paper books are experiencing the same awkward feeling of not being as coveted now as they used to be. In short, their once well-deserved status of ‘unbeatable stars of the century’ is long ago being said to verge on the edge of extinction. Chances of survival? Paper books: 40% —e-books: 100%!

Though many will come to attribute the lack of enthusiasm for paper books to the existence of computers—computers, alas, what an old-fashioned word to type!— others have often pointed their unwavering finger in the always tempting direction of the tee-vee. The truth about diehards taking pride in contrastive analysis of Western society’s moves throughout the history of communication is that they'll usually put the blame on both, computer and television, asserting that the humankind’s Golden Age dates back to the old-time radio days.
Whatever the reason for e-books’ popularity, though, there’s (concerning?) evidence that more and more chronic readers are currently swaying away from their once praised sources of pleasure towards the upcoming high-tech peeps and beeps of mobile phones, i-pads and tablets, whatever state-of-the-art gadget that comes in their way and has the capacity to store entire literary masterpieces.

While some of us keep writing about it, more passionate advocates of scepticism may come to rate all this titter-and-tatter about e-books conquering paper books’ place as sheer blabbering. Just as Edith Wharton called reading a vice in her ground-breaking essay The Vice of Reading, so, perhaps, would they: “That "diffusion of knowledge" commonly classed with sleam-heat and universal suffrage in the category of modern improvements, has incidentally brought about the production of a new vice— the vice of reading.” In any case, why bother trying to keep reading, anyway?
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST? If reading as a habit, an exercise, a cultural practice were about to disappear due to the relentless emergence of more and more digital books, then why would anyone bother creating an e-book at all? And why would anyone bother buying one?

True, younger generations would rather spend two hours flipping through their Facebook friends’ photo albums than reading the first three chapters of a classic. Still, e-books’ sales keep rising. Also, more and more Websites are being created so that access to copywright-free works can be more equally widespread: Project Gutenberg, Google Books and their ‘preview’ fashion, online-literature.com, weblogs and e-learning online platforms —not to mention Wikipedia.org’s worldwide popularity— are all adding up to their Website visits every day. So reading is not, of all “vices”, on the verge of extinction. The paper book, the book as an actual, touchable, flappable object, may be.

DIDEROT’S DREAM COME TRUE. ‘I dare challenge any one, any one, to come up with a better encyclopaedia than Wikipedia,” said Héctor Piccoli, senior German Literature Professor and German-Spanish translator for the National University of Rosario, a couple of months ago during a presentation on Book’s Day.

Piccoli, creator of Transgrama, asserted that a vast majority of readers are experiencing the illusion of a “false rivalry between the printed book and the electronic one.” In his own words, there seems to be a sort of “bibliophile romanticism” going around, under which diehard readers look on their paper-book practices with an increasingly wistful eye. These readers come to highlight the irreplaceable pleasure they often take in being able to actually embrace their book, in going to bed, to the beach, to the doctor’s, book in hand: “They’ll even tell you they won’t take their shower unless they can take their book with them, come on!"

As a matter of fact, even journalists are quite ready to bounce back, keeping an eye on the most efficient technology for news readers and adjusting to the latest in hip so as to keep following the tide. Where? Towards the electronic reading of news articles and events. The traditionally designed news article with a catchy phrase for the title, an accessory picture in central position and a comprehensive telling through the what-where-and-when outline is nowadays rated as dated, absolutely unattractive, unwelcome and consequently unreadable after the first five seconds of exposure are off. Yep, you know what they say: it’s all in the eye of the beholder— the reader, now primarily turned into a user.

DESGINGING THE FUTURE OF PAPER BOOK? Below the article Not so Fast, E-Textbooks: The Battle Between Digital and Print, an easy-to-follow chart quickly presents us with some statistics on the impact of paper and digital textbooks when it comes to the crucial field of education in America. With a truly eye-catching design, the chart reads like a truly dynamic, quite gripping slideshow. The conclusion reached by the time the presentation is over might catch a dozen unawares. But, let's have a look at it, it's no news that pictures would always rather speak for themselves:

E-Textbooks Infographic
Attribution. OnlineDegrees.org.

3 comentarios:

  1. I've said it once and will keep saying it: paper books are my thing!! There's nothing like the ritual of reading them. Real books feel precisely that: real.

    I agree with Héctor in that reading is reading after all, but still... Screens pose too unsortable a barrier between me and the material. For the time being, at least.


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