Will Electronic Publications Ever Replace the Book?
At one time our world was strictly an oral culture. We recited stories, kept records stored in our memories. When writing was invented did we suddenly stop speaking to one another or remembering facts? Of course not. At any given moment we can recall, from memory, names, dates, and places that we have committed to memory. When the printing press was invented, did we stop writing by hand? Again, no. So, why would we stop reading a book just because we have access to the World Wide Web? All previous information technologies of language, rhetoric, writing and printing are technological in themselves (Landow 218). These technologies—writing, speaking, typing—may seem second nature, but given time so will the Web.
There are reasons for choosing a book over the Internet. To make that choice, first you must ask yourself what material you want to read, and why you want to read it. Then you can more easily discover the best medium to read it on. "It appears that electronic publications are generally either read by different people than those who read printed works, or are used by them differently…or as compliments, but not competitors (Pang 344)." If I want driving directions, for example, I could pull out my atlas and look through the pages of roads I’ve never heard of and landmarks I have ever seen. Or, I could go to www.mapquest.com and simply type in my starting point and final destination and get exact directions and mileage along with a map of that specific area in a matter of seconds. This is just one instance where the web is the choice over a book. "A great many—perhaps most—books do not contain literature, the arts, history, or even...
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... distinction, I’m not sure. Maybe I have more respect, even a sense of duty, to the classical writers. At any rate "the movement to embrace new technology will not be a movement from something natural or human to something artificial—from nature to technology," and George Landow puts it, "since writing and printing books are about as technological as one can be (Landow 219)." The World Wide Web has just given us a different forum to experience text we have come to love and depend on.
Tribble, Evelyn B. & Anne Trubek, ed. Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age. New York: Longman, 2003.
Landow, George, "Twenty Minutes into the Future, or How Are We Moving Beyond the Book?" Tribble & Trubek 214-26.
Pang, Alex Soojung-Kim, "The Work of the Encyclopedia in the Age of Electronic Reproduction." Tribble & Trubek 343-51.
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