In Hannah McGregor’s history of publishing class, we often talked about how new technology doesn’t “kill” old technology, that they can in fact live alongside one another. Spotify exists, so do record players, both are forms of listening to music, both offer different experiences and both are great. There’s this fear with digital reading that the print book will become obsolete, a fear that it will disappear. On top of that there’s this added fear of the new technology. It’s a habit we humans have. When Gutenberg’s print book was “invented” they called it witchcraft and lamented for the handwritten books of the scribes. When the handwritten book was “invented” they mourned the loss of the scroll. When people started writing stories down Socrates said it would melt our brains and we’d never be able to remember anything anymore… that oral storytelling was the way to go. My point is, “reading” (storytelling) is an ever changing form, that all forms past and present count, and no form is more “pure” than the rest. I also argue it’s more important to look at it as storytelling instead of reading and that it’s our thirst for an entertaining narrative that spurs innovation.
When reading online I tend to have a difficult time settling into a longer reading, and am instead used to skimming for pertinent information. Even when I’m interested in what I’m reading, I find myself wanting to skip forward and get to the point. It’s only when I force myself to slow down and focus (hypothes.is helps accomplish this) that I can connect with the longer form of online reading. Then again, it honestly hurts my eyes if I stare at a screen for too long (Digital Eye Strain). This is more about personal preference than anything, and I prefer print if I’m doing long form reading.
Of course, online reading is good for quickly disseminating information. While there has been a rash of fake news, there’s also credible sources (NY Times, Kottke, Shatzkin etc.) out there that are able to produce reliable articles. Plus, even the longer articles are pretty short in the grand scheme of things. There’s also the ability to update information if someone is able to disprove a “fact”, or there’s at least the ability to have a conversation around it (in the comments). Aside from the standard Medium sized article (pun intended), there are micro stories (tweets and tweet threads) or lengthy, novel sized stories (fanfiction). Both have their own tone, and allow for different levels of detail and expression.
Technology doesn’t limit the stories we can tell, it allows us to be even more innovative than before. From Twinscapes to Twitter, humans enjoy sharing narratives and are hungry for them in any form they present themselves. Some forms work better for some people than others for a variety of reasons. Audio books (oral narrative) work better for people who want to multi-task or enjoy the “company” of someone telling them a story. I prefer print books because they don’t strain my eyes and force me to focus more on the narrative. Other people prefer ebooks because they’re cheap and easy. Here’s the best part, you aren’t limited to one form or the other, you can enjoy all forms of narrative as many people do.