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Dick Swart

Alumnus
The New Read
The art of writing down words is the greatest invention man ever did and one of the best offspring’s from it is the book. With the invention of the book it was possible to hear stories from storytellers other then the ones you met in your own environment (tribe village etc) Writing also made possible to “hear” the stories at your own convenience (independent in time, place and duration) Even now the digital revolution is a mere wrinkle in the water compared with the storm written text has been in our history.
 
 
People have told each other stories verbally from the dawn of man until now. It apparently satisfies a very basic need of mankind. With the invention of writing things changed. Not just the process of “digesting” these stories changed. The story itself changed. Writing it down made it possible to use different, more complex, story formats. Stories were no longer restrained by the limitations of the narrators memory and the limitations of the audience. Even the language itself, the way we compose sentences, changed. Stories that are spoken and heard in a verbal community have characteristics due to the fact that they are spoken and listened to. One of the more obscure characteristics is that names and places were often repeated in the beginning of a story so that the audience was able to remember the characters. Its one of the way’s scientists can tell that a story originally was told verbally. Writing made it possible to read more complex and different sort of stories. In the same way the invention of music writing made more complex and longer music performances possible such as opera’s and symphonies.
  
When you read a book. What are you doing other than telling yourself a story?
 
When children read a book they often read it out loud to themselves. Not just because they are not capable enough to read without pronouncing the words but also because it’s the “natural” way to digest a story. It is even said that consciousness itself has developed from speaking to oneself. This speaking to oneself internalizes over time. But still it is more difficult to think when your hearing is impaired in one way or the other. While writing this text, I check the flow of my sentences by speaking them out loud (internally). I’ve been told that reading is more difficult while holding water in your mouth. And if the book is really interesting and or difficult you don’t need music really I think, although I don’t know much about digesting a story combined with music. It is very well possible that we are very able to do that because the narrators often used music, rhythm and rhyme in order to remember the story and reproduce it more smoothly. 
 


The new read
 
With the digital revolution that rages over the world, a new way of reading (in the sense of consuming stories) is made possible. The invention of hypertext, the changed distribution of text and the changed circumstances in how we physically read, have changed. Of course we are only a mere 30 years in this revolution. Gutenberg is still alive so to speak and the ink of the first printed bible hasn’t fully dried yet. But still it is interesting to explore whether and how reading (and writing) books will change due to this digitally revolution. I presume that a lot of research has already been done on this subject, but apart from the research I would like to get a glimpse of the future through experiment and imagination.
 


As a start I bought myself an E-book and actually used it during this summer. I read about 8 books with it and already I’ve noticed a few (yet very small) changes in the process of reading a book. I also did some small experiments with the software in order to find the technical boundaries of the gadget. A few things I can tell you about it. E-ink works. The stories about it are true. It definitely reads better then active screens. Using an e-book also feels like being thrown 20 years back. E-books are on the same level as Windows 2.0 and Wordperfect 5.0. I cant wait until Apple will make an E-book bases on E-ink. An iPad for intellectuals so to speak
 


As a start for my research on this subject I will ask my self the following questions. But of course serendipity will do its job. I didn’t write in any perticulary order:
 
·         What attempts have there been from authors to write stories distributed in an digital environment?
 
·         How will a future reading device (an e-book) might look like?
 
·         What will happen with the bibliophilic aspects of the book?
 
·         How will the book industry change?
 
·         What will happen to the role and status of the author?
 
·         If freed from it’s physical properties and distribution limitations, what could a book become?
 
·         What literary genres are conceivable in this digital world?
 
·         What will happen if books can be read to you by the book (text to voice)
 
·         Etc.
 

 
An other thing I would like to mention is the fact that I’m writing a series of children books (unpublished don’t worry) but I don’t know whether or how I want to incorporate this fact in my research.
 

 
And finally, saying that books will eventually disappear is just as silly as saying that paintings will disappear, that people will stop painting and that people will stop watching them.
 

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