The Evolution of Technology and Literature

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Throughout the term thus far, we each have presented to the other interns two literary journals, one a more traditional print journal and one an online journal.  For the most part, I found that the online journals did a great deal to mirror their print counterparts.  Though the way in which we view the material is different, both are essentially a collection of creative works and reviews, organized for the reader.  Some online journals took advantage of their new medium more than others, incorporating voice recordings, video, and color photographs into their journal.  However, I think the ways in which technology changes will continue to influence literature, and eventually we will see changes not just in format, but in content.

This past summer, I finally made the leap and purchased Barnes & Nobles’s color reading tablet, a device to which I had formally been vehemently opposed.  I have quickly come to love its convenience and portability, and saving on the printing charges for the articles and other reading I’m assigned.  However, after exploring the way novels and magazines appear on its screen, I’ve begun to wonder how the rise of such devices will change the content of what we read.  Not only are certain things easier to view on small screens, but technology also conditions us to expect instant gratification, and we may expect not only easily accessible literary content, but additional information and media along with it.

Finally, we are on the verge of generation that will be raised from birth with this sort of media, and their comfort level with such technology may continue to push advances in the ways in which we view literature.  All of this will surely have an impact on the types of literature produced, as writers become more mindful of both the new audience and the new format they are writing for.

It’s certainly an interesting time to be observing the literary world, and while I’m excited about the possibilities of online journals and content, I’m still hoping those beautiful hardcover books don’t disappear off our shelves too quickly!

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2 Responses to The Evolution of Technology and Literature

  1. fraziera13 says:

    Julie Powell’s recent blog post for the New Yorker addresses the way the content of what we read transforms as it moves to an e-text format. Speaking of her once beloved cookbooks, now collecting dust on the top shelves of her kitchen cabinetry, she expresses the guilt I think we so often feel in our transition from hardbacks to iBooks. What I’ve yet to figure out is why we feel such guilt in the first place. Why is our attachment to physical books so strongly ingrained? After all, I have no qualms about downloading the New York Times or the Washington Post to my iPad… I never cared for smudging newsprint all over my fingers, and now I don’t have to pay for the sports section when all I really want is Life & Arts. But, there are times when I miss the feel of the page between my fingers, of the musty smell that wafts from the binding of a good library book, of scribbling my name and phone number in the top left corner of the inside cover of a favorite. “If lost, please return to __.” And how do we pass on a favorite to someone else? How do we gift a book to a lover or friend or child? Where do we write the inscription about how much the book has shaped us and how much we want the recipient to enjoy its reading? Via an e-mail attachment? No. Certainly not. Powell writes that some “books need their weightiness, their awkwardness, to take on their full meaning.” I think that will always be the case. For all their portability and ease of use, there’s something intangibly satisfying about a well-worn, much loved, paper and paste book.

    To read Powell’s original blog post, click here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2011/10/julie-and-julia-and-an-ipad.html

    • Rod Smith says:

      Take a book and slam it on the floor. Stomp on it. The words are still in there. Try that with an e-reader, and the cost may outweigh the lesson. Books aren’t indestructable, but they can weather some things better than the new tech. Not that we won’t someday have armored laptops and iPads, but not just yet.

      It might be worthwhile to explore the symbolic value of books, as well as their solid, worn thinginess.

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