Sunday, December 27, 2009

The e-book, the e-reader, and the future of reading; Christian Science Monitor, 12/21/09

Matthew Shaer, Christian Science Monitor; The e-book, the e-reader, and the future of reading:

As stone tablets gave way the codex, the future of reading is digital – but will the e-reader and the e-book change the nature of how we read?

"Jeremy Manore, an 18-year-old from central New Jersey, subscribes to several magazines and reads books constantly – John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald are among his favorite writers. When he came home from his elite Massachusetts boarding school for Thanksgiving, Jeremy brought three books to read, his mother, Sandy Manore, says. But he wasn’t carting heavy volumes in a backpack.

Instead, he’d checked out a Kindle – a wireless reading device – from his school library, and downloaded the books he wanted to read. Jeremy’s school, Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., is the first in the US to digitize its entire collection. This fall, it began moving its 20,000-volume library aside to make room for a “learning center,” complete with laptop study stations and a fleet of new e-readers with access to millions of digitized books...

The furor over the digitization of Cushing – whose bruised administration refused to speak to the Monitor – is a taste of what’s to come as a new future of reading shapes up. The year 2010 is widely seen as a tipping point when the e-book, once an avant-garde oddity, begins to supplant the hidebound codex. As Mr. Tracy noted, this transition, sweeping in scale, recalls nothing less than the move from stone tablets and scrolls to the bound volume.

Already, the number of electronic texts is expanding exponentially, changing the very way we interact with the written word. Sony sells about 100,000 e-book titles through its online store; Barnes & Noble, a million; Amazon, 360,000. Book Search, an initiative headed by Google, has scanned more than 10 million texts since 2004. The Dostoevsky canon can now be searched the same way you search for the nearest Chinese restaurant."

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