31 December 2013

How do e-books change the reading experience?

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Mohsin Hamid and Anna Holmes discuss in the New York Times Book Review how technology affects our reading habits.

Mohsin Hamid argues that in a world of intrusive technology, we must engage in a kind of struggle if we wish to sustain moments of solitude.

“As we enter the cyborg era, as we begin the physical shift to human-machine hybrid, there will be those who embrace this epochal change, happily swapping cranial space for built-in processors. There will be others who reject the new ways entirely, perhaps even waging holy war against them, with little chance — in the face of drones that operate autonomously while unconcerned shareholding populations post selfies and status updates — of success. And there will be people like me, with our powered exoskeletons left often in the closet, able to leap over buildings when the mood strikes us, but also prone to wandering naked and feeling the sand of a beach between our puny toes.”

Anna Holmes writes that who or what we choose to read can be as telling as the clothes we wear, and an e-book feels like a detail withheld, a secret kept.

“No matter how fancy the refinements made to, say, Apple’s much heralded Retina display or Amazon’s electronic ink, an e-book offers little promise of discovery or wonder. Browsers may be ubiquitous in our e-portal age, but an e-book doesn’t encourage actual browsing.”

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