The Slow Evolution of Digital Literature

Like many others I received an e-reader as a Christmas gift.  Despite loving technology I have clung to my love of paper books and in all honesty if my partner hadn’t bought me a Kobo Touch I would probably still be buying (and not knowing where to store) an abundance of traditional books.  However, since I now have the digital toy I’ve resolved to read at least every other book on the Kobo. 

Some of my initial thought about the e-reader:

  • The ability to highlight, bookmark passages, and take digital notes is a huge asset for academic reading.
    • This advantage is the same one that prompts my use of Zotero to keep track of citations and  reading notes on my laptop.
  • The dictionary feature is my new best friend.
  • The ability to digitally share reading lists, quotations, etc 

These are all great reasons to use an E-reader or tablet, however digital texts haven’t really advanced traditional reading in any profound way.  Ebooks are essentially digital copies of paper books.  Given the push for digital interaction, I find it a bit surprising that more innovation hasn’t occurred in the development of multimedia and expanded digital texts.

The one example I have come across that pushes the boundaries of e-publishing is Paul La Farge’s Luminous Airplanes work.  La Farge describes his work as “immersive text”, something akin to a new phase of hyperlink books which allows the reader to explore a text in unique and exploratory ways.  A recent Spark interview highlights the ideas behind La Farge’s work.

Additionally, Apple just announced the introduction of iBooks 2 app which boasts an interactive textbook format.  It will be interesting to see if Apple’s idea catches on and how it actually works as an interactive medium.

What types of innovation in digital literature would you like to see?

E-Readers and Book Length


A recent Spark episode included a short discussion of the possible impact of e-readers on the length of books. It was suggested that e-readers may be responsible for an increase in book length. The argument being that e-readers make huge tomes easier to transport and more accessible.

In some ways this argument does make sense. Book lengths have often impacted by external factors, the invention of the printing press, how authors were paid, the price of paper, and the increase of leisure time all impacted the general length of books being published. However, given the wave of resistance against e-readers that still exists, I’m not entirely sure that e-readers can be deemed solely responsible for the changes in the literary world.

A recent Active History post also deals with the history of books and The e-Book Revolution.