Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Time Has Come or I'm an Amphibian?

Sometimes connections come at odd moments. Here on my desk is a copy of Eamon Duffy's book, Marking the Hours: English People & Their Prayers 1240-1570. While I have not had a chance to read it, I have enjoyed looking at the photographs of these wonderfully illustrated books and of a way of writing and publishing that has disappeared. So when I saw this article, I saw connections or bridges between what is past and what is evolving in how we express ourselves. Here are two paragraphs to pique your interest, but read the article because it touches on so many issues libraries, educators, and publishers have been discussing and will continue to discuss. Note the last sentence which is a nod to the current buzz words about digital life. I also love the word, "porous," and the phrase, "continuous partial attention," as they should be buzz words for the conditions most of us are experiencing.

Certain things that we used to think of as books -- encyclopedias, atlases, phone directories, catalogs -- have already been reinvented, and in some cases merged. Other sorts of works, particularly long-form narratives, seem to have a more durable relationship with the printed word. But even here, our relationship with these books is changing as we become more accustomed to new networked forms. Continuous partial attention. Porous boundaries between documents and media. Social and participatory forms of reading. Writing in public. All these things change the very idea of reading and writing, so when you resume an offline mode of doing these things, your perceptions and way of thinking have likely changed.

(A side note. I think this experience of passage back and forth between off and online forms, between analog and digital, is itself significant and for people in our generation, with our general background, is probably the defining state of being. We're neither immigrant or native. Or to dip into another analogical pot, we're amphibians.)
Forbes has just published a good article with links to others about the nature and state of the book which only proves the observations in the above link.
People are reading more, not less. The Internet is fueling
literacy. Giving books away online increases off-line readership. New forms of
expression--wikis, networked books--are blossoming in a digital hothouse.
All libraries need to capitalize on this behavior. Maybe Millennials are reading after all. (Thanks John)

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