The Impact of Technology on Reading

News of Andrew Wylie’s deal with Amazon.com really brought home to me how much of a shift reading in general, and publishing specifically, are undergoing with the rise of new technologies. Five articles that appeared over the weekend address that shift in different and interesting ways.

The Philadelphia Inquirer:

Morning Miracle: Inside the Washington Post, A Great Newspaper Fights for Its Life
By Dave Kindred

The ongoing revolution in how news and information are delivered in the digital era provides the backdrop for Kindred’s highly readable account of the Post’s journalistic triumphs and business travails over the last four years.

The Guardian:

Might Ryu Murakami’s switch to the iPad signal the beginning of the end for traditional publishers?

Earlier this month, in a manoeuvre I predict will soon be seen as a watershed, the admired contemporary Japanese writer Ryu Murakami announced that he was publishing his new book, A Singing Whale, in partnership with Apple, as an iPad download, turning his back on his regular Japanese publisher, Kodansha. The book will also include video content set to music composed by Oscar-winning Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Boston.com:

Kicking back with a good e-reader
They’re portable and give you access to thousands of titles, but which is the best for beach days? Or should you just go old school?

On Monday, Amazon.com, the online merchant that also developed the Kindle e-book, said that over the past three months, it had sold 143 digital books for every 100 hardcovers and that the gap had widened in the past month to 180 digital sales for each 100 in paper. Forrester Research, a technology tracking firm in Cambridge, expects that as many as 10 million e-reader devices will be sold in the nation this year.

TriQuarterly Online:

Flipboard points to the future of reading

If you have an iPad, you should install Flipboard right now. If you don’t, bear with me because I’m going to attempt to make a point about reading online in general, whether you have an iPad or not.

As you see from the video, Flipboard is an app that aggregates content from the links your friends on Twitter and Facebook are sharing, plus packages of pre-selected topics like books, technology, politics, etc. It then assembles these pages into a beautiful magazine-like format that takes advantage of the iPad form factor perfectly. I can already tell that once some of the rough edges are smoothed out, this will be my app of first choice for reading content from the web.

* I’ve downloaded Flipboard twice for my iPad– first time it choked when I tried to set it up, second time it asked for my email to put me on a “wait” list to create my account. Yeah, umm.. fuck that. This app has potential but was released way, way too early.

And finally from The Guardian:

Technology fetishism is skin deep
Our shallow obsession with gadgets disguises a conservatism where real change takes place at numbingly slow speed

A milestone has been reached, a Rubicon crossed. With the news, announced on the Guardian’s front page on Wednesday, that ebook sales on Amazon have outstripped hardbacks for the first time, I have decided no longer to pay attention to hi-tech company marketing memos. That means that next time Mark Zuckerman converts another half billion users to Facebook, Jeff Bezos converts another half million words to Kindle ebook format, or Steve Jobs farts to the left – or will it be to the right this time? – I won’t be reading.

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1 Comment

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One response to “The Impact of Technology on Reading

  1. Susan DeFreitas

    I say, bring it on. There are those of us who will always have a thing for books, like there will always be people who have a thing for records. For everyone else, there’s an e-book reader.

    The expanded possibilities of the digital form seem endless, and intriguing, especially if we can maintain the depth of the form in the new mediums.

    Isn’t that what the novel is all about? The new?

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