Essays in Honour of Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser
Edited By Simon Rosenberg and Sandra Simon
Epilogue: Book Studies and the Sociology of Text Technologies
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Adriaan van der Weel, Leiden University
After speech, writing and printing, digital textuality is the next major influence on human mentality. Having the tools, the methods as well as the right – historical – perspective, book studies is better placed than most disciplines to study the current digital disruption in textual dissemination.
Almost for as long as they have been around, e-books have been criticized for being insufficiently digitally ‘native.’ The damning accusation is that they merely imitate (paper) books. That is to say, they are said to have been devised with a mentality shaped, and unduly constrained, by familiarity with the paper book. In this respect the ‘horseless carriage syndrome’ is often invoked, a phenomenon familiar to anyone studying technological innovations. It is, for example, often suggested that the earliest printed books were unnecessarily imitative of their manuscript predecessors, in the use of type that was virtually indistinguishable from handwriting, including abbreviations; in the space left for ornamental capitals; in the use of rubrication, and so on. In that view the print book is in need of a full digital overhaul: E-books need digital ‘enhancement’ to prevent them from remaining pale copies of print.1 As Douglas Adams had it in his witty promotion for the Voyager ‘Expanded Book’ series in the late 1990s, it is a matter of ‘getting the book invented properly’ for the digital age.
Supposing for a moment that screen books...
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