Sunday, October 31, 2010

e-reading the news

The newspaper is delivered silently in the dead of night. There is no rattle of the letterbox, no picking up, no folding and refolding. I can't use it to swat flies with or stuff into my wet boots as they dry. There's no stack of yesterdays in the living room to raid for wrapping broken glass in, or for laying a fire or helping it draw. It's wirelessly delivered to my e-reader. And yes, it's because of all this I recommend a 10 day free subscription to any student of literacy in order to better understand how habits and material affordances interweave with our nostalgia for certain media. The expeience is qualitatively different. It has to be. But the news is arguably the same. Navigation requires a different logic and one in which I'm still a novice, shaving doesn't interupt my reading (I just turn it on voice) and if I'm reading outside a gust of wind is not a problem. I can check the details online at a single click. Yet for all its newness I'm disappointed with the reduced depth of modality. The colour supplements are grey and the illustrative content paired to the linguistic bone. So e-readers represent an interesting moment in technoliteracy, one in which convergence is always a promise and divergence a commercial reality. Ergonomically well honed, easily portable and with glare reduction to die for the Kindle has so much going for it. But then it's not particularly versatile. Although our technology is getting light and more mobile, you still need to pack your bag with all sorts of devices each one of which probably has the computing power to manage all those separate functions.

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