Ever since I read Jacob Lambert’s piece at The Millions last week, The Paper-Reader’s Dilemma, I’ve been thinking about the possibility of a casual proliferation in electronic reading. How the transition might overtake us without our permission, without, in fact, us even realising. In his piece about admitting digital change, Lambert wrote:
I might say we’re at a moment when we face this choice as readers—the decision to climb into the boat or stay on familiar shores. But the decision is not truly ours. Time and again, these choices are made for us, by a collective sweep and push. One day, everyone holds an iPod, and the next day, so do you. Those who resist—the pipe smokers and vinyl hounds, stubborn to the end—come to seem affected, or possibly insane. The rest of us seem modern, and eventually commonplace.
This week, there was some consternation when Apple launched a local iBooks store with publishers Hachette, Murdoch Books, HarperCollins, Hardie Grant, Macmillan and Wiley. Many other Australian publishers have been unable to negotiate with Apple and so it’s difficult to ascertain what this will mean for Australian publishers, writers and readers. But after all the focus on the ebook markets in the US and the UK, we will hope that it means Australians can start being more selective about their ebook libraries.
Suffice to say, our definition of a ‘book’ has shifted, no longer simply an object we can hold of words bound together. Books are interactive objects ‘made to be held’, but so are ereading devices. Yet, there is a real possibility that many of these devices – from the Kindle to the iPad – could be obsolete in just a few years.
Of late, I’ve also been thinking about digital creation, regardless of current devices and platforms. The future of reading and writing, one in which digital creators are not restricted in the same ways as print creators are (mainly because of the often prohibitive nature of print), is exciting. There are possibilities to move beyond notions of formal reading into a new era of reading participation and immersive reading experiences.