The Future of Literary Reading


Contribute one post of substance to this page on the specific topic of “the future of literary reading.” This is grandiose so your comments can and should be speculative, if not visionary. You may want to be more modest in your approach, however, and comment on an experimental print text or one of the works of electronic literature on our syllabus.

22 Comments to “The Future of Literary Reading”

  1. In Italo Calvino’s novel he includes a passage that predicts the future of books through the eyes of the fraud translator. He writes:
    What does the name of the author on the jacket matter? Let us now move forward in thought to three thousand years from now. Who knows which books from our period will be saved, and who knows which author’s names will be remembered? Some books will remain famous but will be considered anonymous works…other authors’ names will still be well known, but none of their works will survive. (101)
    This passage proves to depict another opinion that corresponds to the other authors and speculators we have discussed in class (those who foresee a future in which books are obsolete). Here we are provided with another image that calculates a loss of records, authors, book titles, meaning, and content. I have a hard time following this attitude; if anything we will have better documentation of famous and not so famous books and writers. If we have developed technological systems that can trace back to every facebook status, wall comment, and message I have ever written, if places like Sydney Australia maintain cameras that can survey every person in the city’s detailed move, then why on earth would we not be able to handle keeping records of books and author’s names that have been established and kept on file for years?

    Many people imagine a world in which paper-bound books are replaced by hand-held electronics with touch sensor screens and a tiny hard-drive storing the memory of thousands of pages worth of text, but I just cannot see this form of reading completely replacing the traditional paper book. As of now, the Kindle, iPad, etc., just aren’t that functional.

    As both a beach goer and a clumsy individual, these electronic forms of reading are un-appealing. Even today when I bring my iPod to the beach and an accidental slip sends it flying into the sand, I automatically recognize that the spill could have taken the life of my fragile iPod. I kneel down giving it CPR to blow the tiny grains of sand out of its insides and pray that it will live to see another day. (I have seen people drop their $500 iPhone, landing face down on the concrete, and I have watched them grimace as they slowly picked it up and turned it over to check the almost always shattered screen.) A book on the other hand can handle a fall; you might lose your place on the page but it won’t shatter and cause thick black ink to blot underneath the cracked surface.
    Since I am a huge fan of reading at the beach on a nice day I am happy to leave my inexpensive book lying on my towel as I bob around in the ocean. No one steals books, an expensive reading device on the other hand would be instantly swiped. One quick duck under a wave and the brand new $165 Kindle would be gone.

    The future of reading should not only be defined by new devices but should include both the new and the old. I do not see a future without the hard cover or paper-back book, but I can see books and electronic texts existing together harmoniously; we do not need to make it a case of survival of the fittest and why should we when it is completely possible to use both? Books are beneficial in many ways and electronic literature has its perks too. I can see programs such as TOC becoming popular and even more advanced—catering to our desire for multiple stimuli at once: reading, writing, videos, music, games, etc, but I think there will always be a place for a good old fashioned book.

  2. It’s easy to think that electronic devices are replacing all forms of traditional media in this day and age where we’re more inclined to put new forms of technology up on a pedestal than, say, an author’s latest opus. Our culture is so centered on the latest and greatest that we sometimes forget that the best mode of learning is still reading from a book. In my paper, I talk about how the default mode of academia is through reading and writing; professors will still assign readings, students will still write essays, and textbooks will still be outrageously overpriced. I think that will remain the default for a long time, and even if we see Kindles in every English class, the act of deep reading, textual analysis, what have you, will remain untouched; the medium is only the medium, the message can still be interpreted however you want it.

    That being said, it seems we are in an age where the traditional novel is dying. With video games rising in popularity and pieces such as Tomasula’s TOC showing us that deep literary experiences can be attained from hybridized forms of art, the concept of just reading words seems almost silly. It’s regrettable, but I still feel reading novels has more staying power than most forms of art. There will always be a fringe to defend and keep it alive, should it come down to it. My only hope is that it doesn’t, and old world media and technological advances can co-exist.

  3. While thinking about the future of literary reading, it is hard not to fall prey to my inner cynic, interpreting the growing popularity of digital literature as the death sentence to traditional literature. To clarify the terms traditional literature and digital literature, I classify literary reading in the traditional sense as the reading of printed literature and literary reading in the digital sense as reading and interfacing with literature on electronic devices.
    I would like to think that the future generations will have the discipline to sit down and focus on reading a printed book, but as the example of Vishal in the online article “Growing up Digital, Wired for Distraction” shows, the upcoming generation is being ensnared by digital distractions. The desire to be constantly “wired in” to online communications and resources is replacing the static level of information provided by printed literature. This goes without mentioning the diminishing perceived entertainment value in reading a book as opposed to digitally accessing literature. Reading in a traditional sense will undoubtedly remain for many years to come, yet those able to appreciate the unique experience of physically turning pages to complete a story are slowly vanishing as digitized literature is being made more available.
    As more books are made accessible for Kindle/Nook/Ipad users, I predict the market for digitized and interactive literature (such as TOC) will increase while the demand for traditional literature decreases. Along with the evolving digitized genre of literature comes a variety of benefits, which make literature more user-friendly, such as the ability to make word clouds (for distant reading) or to easily locate a phrase in the text. The tools provide a very different reading experience than given in traditional literature. Another positive aspect of the evolution of literature to accommodate the digital era is the emergence of a new genre, targeted at digital literature. Because digital literature is displayed on a screen, it has the ability to provide a sensory experience for the reader/user. The changes in literary reading will lead to new ways of interacting with strings of thought, now coded instead of printed, and should be accepted as a merit-worthy reading practices.

  4. I believe that the future of literary reading will continue on until human beings as a species manage to kill themselves off, or manage to come to a point where we don’t speak, read, write or think at all (although this relegates the ability to engage in literary reading solely on human beings, and who says that we’re the only sentient things in the cosmos that can read, write and interpret?). Literary reading, in my understanding, is a faculty of the human mind that can be treated like an instrument;it can be maintained, sharpened, used to build something stronger, allowed to decay, become neglected, and even break down. The individuals determination and dedication combined with personal discipline are the determining factors of what will be made of it. Institutions may try to preserve it, or make a case for it being vital and therefore force it upon it’s constituents, but it’s ultimately down to the individual and his or her choice and ability (although I strongly encourage individuals with similar interests to seek each other out and try to organize themselves.). That being said, for our immediate future I’ll make a couple of guesses:

    Amongst many academics, literati, intellegentsia, intellectuals and the elite there will be camps set (whether over the medium the reading has to be done in, how much time has to be spent, how much of an understanding must be reached, etc.) as to what does and doesn’t define literary reading. These arguments will pick apart the various ways in which every scientific fact or etymological step from the current understanding, back to times lost in the impenetrable wool of human history, supports their point of view, or refutes the other camps. In the process of their arguing they will make the issue so complex that only the people actively engaged in the battle will be able to tell who is from which side, what has been said, and, eventually, only the helplessly entangled or the most dedicated to/obsessed with literary reading will end up giving more than a trivial fuck. Many people, and this number will grow and grow and grow until we swallow up all the resources that this planet is able to provide us, will go out, buy Kindles, iPads, books, magazines, etc. etc. and be blissfully unaware of the dire situation at hand, occasionally amused by the blurbs that pop up in the news or in the blogs they read on the ongoing battle for literary reading, but deterred from entering the battle because any foray into the territory will immediately be engulfed by the propaganda and arcane mutterings from both sides. Corporations will send their feelers out in the form of cubicle bound minions chained by income in order to find a way to make money off of it so their upper management can play golf, sip martinis and buy yachts. A relative few individuals will sit down (or stand, or recline, or hang upside down), read in a way that defines literary reading, regardless of the medium that it’s done in, or whether they’re aware of the issue surrounding literary reading (although they’ll probably stumble into it if they’re not), and devote themselves to living in a way that they think is meaningful. They may even write and distribute pieces that are challenging and enjoyable to read.

  5. When thinking about the future of literary reading I become not only upset, but somewhat saddened by the fact that our literary world is becoming more digital and less print based. I grew up with a mom who pushed reading on me…and today I can genuinely appreciate that she was like that. I now as a 22 year old feel that I forever will appreciate a print book…there is something special if almost in a way magical about holding a book in your hands and experiencing it page to page. For me, someone who is a primarily print based reader…I found TOC distracting and hard to follow. The moving images and background music, although added to the beauty of it all, kept me from fully engaging in the text that was in front of me. Even though this “way” of reading is very inventive…I also feel that it might take a while for completely digital books to become the norm.

    Unlike TOC I feel that House of Leaves, as a new and exciting genre of literature, is headed in the right direction. The way the words move across the page and the changing of fonts, colors and direction keeps the reader interested and intrigued by not only what is going to happen next in the story line but how it is going to physically appear on the page. I feel that this type of writing could offer some hope to the dying off of print literature. It takes away the monotony of turning page after page of the same “image” of words and offers a new visual insight to the world of text.

    We all know that there is no stopping the media and technology from furthering its development…and that as consumers we will continue to buy the newest and greatest form of technology. Right now the kindle seems to be taking over, because if it’s one of Oprah favorite things, we know it has to be a “must buy” and although I am an avid reader it just doesn’t seem to appeal to me like a paper novel does. We all look at different screens…tv, phones, computers…constantly throughout the day, why add another one such as the kindle. I feel that for those future generations of children who are not being introduced to literature and print based text are really missing out on something. Maybe a combination of the two, digital and visually enticing literature, needs to be brought to the for front in order to save the book. Children these days tend to need to be more and more entertained in order for someone or something to hold their attention. So possibly interactive literature is part of the answer to this problem, although it saddens me to say so. I think it is our responsibility as a generation who still have an appreciation for a good ole hardback to pass on those appreciations to others, in hopes of saving the dwindling life of the “book”, whatever that maybe be considered to be these days.

  6. I suppose I should state right here that I prefer the “traditional” book to the digital book. There’s something very satisfying about flipping through pages and feeling the weight of the book shift from one palm to the other.

    Also, I prefer the traditional book to the audiobook. A passage in If on a winter’s night a traveler sums up my feelings about audiobooks:

    “Listening to someone read aloud is very different from reading in silence. When you read, you can stop or skip sentences: you are the one who sets the pace. When someone else is reading, it is difficult to make your attention coincide with the tempo of his reading: the voice goes either too fast or too slow.” (Calvino, 68)

    Either the audiobook reader reads too fast, too slow, or I eventually get sick of the reader’s voice (though, I’d love to hear an audiobook narrated by James Mason–but I won’t get into that. Plus he’s dead, so: impossible). This was my problem with Tomasula’s TOC. It seemed it was developed to work at its own pace, not at the reader’s pace which makes for a frustrating “reading” experience.

    However, considering what seems like a consistent flow of new media pouring in from developers around the globe, I can definitely see some interesting innovations in the future of literary reading.

    What I’m basically trying to get at is there are certainly exciting avenues waiting to be discovered in relation to the development of new ways of experiencing literary reading.

    For instance, awhile ago I was discussing with a friend who designs games for iDevices about the idea of developing an interactive zine for iPads, with embedded videos, games, and the like.
    It would be neat to see if somebody took this idea and applied it to something more literary. (In fact, I bet something like that already exists.)

    Relaying back to TOC, perhaps interactive/ game-esque literature will improve and become more popular on a larger scale if there is more room for the reader to read at his or her own pace without that having any effect on gleaning meaning from the text.

    Or, perhaps I am ranting myself into a void because as I typed that I could imagine texts that have a competitive, time-based format and the amount of time it takes the reader to read something would have an effect on how he or she understands the text. That sounds like it could be irksome but it could also help people realize that books are texts that are meant to be interacted with and explored, similar in some respect to games. The success of such a text would all depend on how the form and design would supplement the content and what the reader would gather from it in the end.

    Still, there exists that sense of urgency, that feeling that we need to “save” and “rescue” the traditional book format from obsolescence. A world without traditional books, or the gradual death of the traditional book, makes me think of that episode of the Twilight Zone ( ) in which Burgess Meredith’s character is the last man on earth. He has all the books in the world to read, but oops! he can’t read them because his glasses are broken. Except, in order to clarify my vision, subtract the books from that episode and leave the despair that comes with the irony of the shattered spectacles. As much as I do not want to think about a world without actual books I think it is foolish to fall into Ludditism and reject the notion that some people will lean more toward literary reading in digital formats.

    I can bring up Kimberly’s point right here, it’s a point we’ve definitely gone over several times throughout the course of the quarter: that this does not need to be a matter of WHICH FORMAT IS BETTER. Neither is necessarily BETTER because both formats have their own benefits according to a varying range of readers. For the traditional book lover it could be strange affectations like the smell of an old book and for the digital book lover it could be the convenience of portability, being able to carry around several books on the go. Also, there needn’t even be distinctions between strictly TRADITIONAL BOOK LOVERS and E-BOOK LOVERS because I am sure there are people who enjoy both formats.

    Maybe I’m naive and being hopeful, but I think there’s still a future for the physical book in an age where everything is becoming increasingly digital. Who knows, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see and hope the future of literary reading is characterized by the coexistence of the traditional and the digital and that we won’t have to look at the world of literature through fractured glasses.

  7. Change is occurring in the reading world. My generation is currently stuck in a limbo between “traditional” reading habits (e.g. reading a physical book) and new forms of reading (e.g. Kindle reading). Many questions arise as to what the future of reading will be. What is to become of reading habits? Will the definition of the “book” change? How will the role of reader change? The future of literary reading is tackled in the above You Tube interview of Northeastern University’s dean of university libraries, vice provost for academic affairs, and literary agent. If you have time, I recommend everyone to at least watch a few minutes of it. I will be using it as a base for my speculations about the future of reading.

    One of the key issues tackled in this interview is the role of the printed text; what is to become of printed text when digital media take over? One of the interviewees said, “it is a scary thought to see printed material disappear entirely.” Yet, the interviewees seem to see digitization of books as a good overall. The dean of Northeaster’s library introduced the idea of “print on demand.” When everything is digitized, a reader would have the option of ordering a book to be printed if he/she wanted it in print. If everything is digital, it is up to the reader why they would want a physical text. I like this idea because of the environmental concern, the conservation of paper (trees) and also because people will have the option to choose a printed text or a digital text (reader preference is valued).

    The experience of reading itself was also tackled in this interview. How will reading change when everything is digitized? “Getting lost in a book” was vice provost of academic affairs’ definition of the experience of reading. What is threatened, if this is the definition of the reading experience, is the idea of outside distractions (a key theme of our class). When texts are wired with hyperlinks that enable readers to jump from site to site rather than read continuously, what will happen to the reader experience? Will readers still be able to get lost in texts? I do not think so. Yet, to tackle this problem, I see digital media like TOC becoming popular. TOC is an interactive reading experience where “readers” can actively create their own reading experience; it is pro-reader. Less extreme, but just as effective would be texts that include video “as an integral part of the reading experience.” These texts would stimulate more reader interaction with the text, however, the vice provost’s worry was how the quality of texts themselves will go down if writers rely on images. There will be a “destimulating effect on the creative imagination.” Will readers continue to use metaphors and other figures of speech if they have images to tell the story? What will a text look like with no metaphor? Or even, how will “old” texts that employ the use of metaphor be viewed? The definition of the reading experience and even the idea of a story itself will undergo change.

    The role of the library, the symbol of print text itself, is also changing. The dean of the library emphasized that libraries are not narrowly confined to print material anymore. The Northeastern Library spends eighty percent of their budget on digital sources – a huge shift away from printed format. “The walls of the library start to dissolve” when texts become digitized. However, the dean is optimistic about the function of libraries in the future. They will not be shut down, they will just have to change to accommodate new forms of reading.

    Here is an additional list of noteworthy opinions of what is gained and lost through mass digitization: Advantages: “books are dope” — no worry of “running out”, a new generation of readers who can relate to the technology will hopefully arise, more democratic (many people cannot access libraries. But my question is, what about the people who cannot afford this kind of technology?). Disadvantages: the electricity could be shut off – we could lose everything, a loss of history (people’s scribbles in books), nostalgia (yet, if you did not grow up with it, you won’t miss it).

  8. I also consider that the future of reading rests with both the new and the old. New devices should not replace the traditional form of the novel they should enhance the reading experience and offer room for further insight.

    I am that Iphone owner Kimberly speaks of, constantly living in fear that I’ve finally damaged it beyond repair. Only this week I had to submerge it in a bag of rice to try and reverse some of the latest damage I had inflicted upon it. But back to the future of reading. This highlights not only my own clumsiness but the impracticality of costly electronic devices. I have seen children attack books with crayons, are we really about to hand them all Ipads and Kindles? I think not. Having said this though, just because I’m clearly a fan of the more traditional printed literature it does not mean that everyone will feel this why. I can see that to others the electronic versions may be more appealing. This suggests that there is room for change in the future of reading. After all, everything else is changing, so why not the way we read too?

    Change does not have to mean overhaul. I do not personally believe that it has ever really been a consideration to do away with the traditional novel. Its presence may be getting smaller but it is still a presence that will be there. As technology begins to impact even greater into our lives the demand for electronic texts will inevitably grow. The demand for traditional texts may decline but I do not believe it will whittle away completely. Who’s to say that in fifty years time we won’t be sat around laughing about the phase when people were trying to read on Kindles? I’m pretty sure we won’t be pointing out novels in exhibits at museums anytime soon. At least not until they finally invent these hover boards we’ve been promised in the Back to the Future films.

  9. For the most part, the literary movements seem to have already accounted for readings loss of popularity and social importance. They remain firmly an outsider within their culture it seems. This is what I’ve personally always seen in the novels of the counter-culture. Where novels like One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest responded to the sense of institutional over-determination, while offering an alternative of total freedom and autonomy. In a way this sense of determinism seems a precursor to the way technology is said to extend these cultural factors onto the more qualitatively analyzable terrain of cognitive effects.
    As each new literary movement responds to its own time and adjusts itself to the dominant traditions it learned from. This quote from TS Eliot on criticism and tradition illustrates this historical movement:
    The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new.
    This is also instructive in the way it restricts the ideal of creativity to critical term, that is it is defined by the critical infrastructure already in place. These concerns over criticisms that inform this quote, align sensibilities of any writer that imagines themselves as outside the dominant system of ideology. Further, these are the possibilities seemingly offered by new Literacies. I forget which article said that by the book dying the writer can finally take up their self-styled mantle of the Outsider.
    New media and forms of literary art carry these unlimited possibilities. Not only can be the form be derived entirely from the idea of organic unity, in which context flows naturally in the Whitman sense out of the subject in question informing formal questions. But new media offers an opportunity to think differently about the way writers and literary artists write in general. In fact, this broadens up the range of representation. As well as it gives them greater control over reading rhythms as seen in TOC, but also in the way that digression interject comedy and entertainment into the footnotes of House of Leaves.
    While both of these innovative mediums emphasize the reading and interpretation is an intensely personal even solipsistic experience. And I think this is one of the pedagogical advantages interactive, technology driven, literary art offers over books. Is that books like TOC opens up the range of possible interpretations to give feedback based on its own devised interpretative rules along with critical practices used by academic departments practicing textual analysis. This idea borrows from David Foster Wallace’s idea that literature should evolve into a forum. And whatever personal or anonymous avenues of interaction these new reading experiences offer they should be welcomed. If only because they offer the chance of interacting with texts under the guise of social immediacy platforms such as Facebook. But because it de-formalizes the way literature is traditionally taught in high school from a top-down approach that focuses on literary devices over content. This reverses it and makes personal reactions to the text, negative or otherwise, negotiable. Instead of usual cop-outs when students see no value in literature because it is not definitive and because it can mean whatever you what. For me this is part of literature’s intimate magic, which at the same time its valuable to integrate the importance of discussion as one of the socializing functions literary reading provides.
    I guess my ideal future medium would be like a group version of TOC. My example would be rooted in a detection narrative that often mirrors the work of interpretation. A little like Lolita where we follow along a crazy detective playing a crossword game of real clue/delusional hallucination.

  10. I think that the future of literary reading is going to be greatly enhanced with the explosion of Kindles and iPads. It makes reading an easier experience, something that can connect people. In the video on Gizmodo, the idea of the application Coupland was something that I immediately wanted to be apart of. To be able to connect to people instantaneously about books that I’m reading, that I think would be of interest not only on a personal, but on a professional level is a really enticing idea.

    I think that reading practices are going to change, but not disappear. In the future iPad books for Penguin, the idea of creating an interactive Spot made me immediately think of my cousins, and how they would love to mess around with a book like that. By adjusting to the screen obsessive people we’ve turned into, books will continue to thrive.

    There is the possibility that reading the classics is not necessarily going to be seen as an important aspect of life anymore, but if we somehow come up with a way to reinterpret them into a digital interactive format they importance might be found again. I feel like we need to begin advertising for books as an escape from the bombardment of information that we are constantly surrounded by now.

    I feel like books will always have a place in society, they may not necessarily be the actual paper but the content is always going to be around, and people are always going to want to create. As long as we still have people who want to create something for other people to enjoy we will still have books.


    While addressing this issue of the future of literary reading, the first question that comes to mind is what is the future of literary production? The shift towards digital media, iPads and ebooks, is undeniable. Paradigms shift when the market does; bookstore giant Borders is bankrupt and more and more trends indicate that the power is no longer in the printing press. For writers this means that there are multiple publishing paths emerging that break with the traditional process of being accepted by a major house, the media’s newest example of its possibilities taking the form of Amanda Hocking. The Huffington Post reports (via a local KTTC news report):

    “Unknown, living paycheck to paycheck in Austin, Minnesota, rejected by publishers all over New York, Amanda Hocking decided to self-publish on ebook platforms only. She sold 100,000 of her works in December, and over 10 months she’s had more than 900,000 in sales. She’s 26 and is now making enough money to quit her day job and become a full time writer, in fact she’s a millionaire. She’s going to be featured in ‘Elle’ Magazine’s April issue, all without what everyone thought was essential to make it as a writer: a big New York publishing house.”

    When I stumbled upon this article I initially turned lime green with envy. Hocking, piggybacking upon the contemporary teen’s obsession with all things vampire, underworld, and Twilight trendy, the twenty six year old author is selling her stories like hotcakes. 99-cent hotcakes. In the article linked above Matthew Ingram points out that an independent publishing venture like Hocking’s side steps not just the physicality of print and the endorsement of a publishing house, but having to split the money with one also. The author of an ebook that sells with Amazon or iTunes keeps 70 percent of the revenue. With the exception of utilizing these major online retailers, the writing of new literature has the potential to give authors full autonomy over their publishing process. But what effect does this have on a text’s quality? How does this change our perception of a novel boasting “Penguin” or “Random House” on its spine? When the book existed solely in a physical print form, the regimented, competitive publishing process was essential in distinguishing the quality from the garbage. The books on your college syllabi hot off the university press: quality. The books in the magazine aisle of the grocery store with a pirate and a busty maiden on the cover: garbage.

    Ingram goes on to say:

    “Just as the music industry did, many book publishers seem to be clinging to their traditional business models, despite mounting evidence that the entire structure of the industry is being dismantled, and the playing field is being leveled between authors and publishers.”

    I think this comparison to music is wholly fitting. The written word, like musical expression, represents some of the oldest human technology, and there is always resistance to its new forms. Long ago music gave in to digital production and circulation, as it was the only way to stay in business; the paradigm shifted with the consumer market. Few of us were writing 32 page essays on the loss of the vinyl, and not many mourned the slow death of the CD (after dancing on the cassette’s grave).

    Once there is a collective acceptance of a media form as fully open to market manipulation, we tolerate the barrage of “creators” and their “art,” aware that they are a dime a dozen, products of somebody’s get rich and famous scheme (let’s face it, at the end of the day we can blame it all on capitalism). By this I mean, you buy various beat making programs, an average Joe convinced with the ease of fame, “lay a track,” become a Deejay, and have the girl next door (who dreams of pop stardom) sing the hook (with the help of Auto-Tune). Not that this joke couldn’t read: you buy various storytelling programs, an average Joe convinced with the ease of fame, write a novella, become an Author, and have the girl next door (who dreams of becoming a top model) pose for the cover (with the help of Photoshop). In fact, the traditional process of finding a publisher for one’s book is remarkably similar to a musician being signed to a record label, even acceptance from the smaller, independent presses or labels is considered a success (no longer swimming in the sea of the unsigned, but hip and “alternative”).

    But once music went digital, the Internet and YouTube giving stage, many found they could be successful and sensational without a major deal or endorsement. They first build a public interest, and then the record companies can catch on and sell to their liking. It only makes sense that books would follow suit.

    And if we learned anything from the “Bed Intruder Song,” it is that sell-ability does not equate credibility. The viral video is only a couple thousand views shy of 75,000,000 on YouTube and the song is sold on iTunes, complete with a brief stint on the top 100 charts. We cannot ignore these Internet phenomena—the Gregory Brothers (via Antoine Dodson) and Hocking appeal to the masses, and illicit responses from popular culture. However, the Gregory Brothers never got a Grammy nom and Hocking won’t be up for the National Book Award any time soon. Despite the drastic paradigm shifts in media forms and their consumption, distinguishing tastes remain.

    As long as there are educated, globally conscious realms of thought there will be standards that divide the “high art” from the “low art.” There will be works with lasting interpretive meaning, cultural impact, and those that are more fleeting, trend driven and easily forgotten. So what does this all mean for the future of literary reading? It means that eventually, there will be a general acceptance of books in newly digitized forms, of the shift in publishing paradigms, and with this acceptance will come the conscious need of discretion and discriminating tastes. We can make the argument for changing attention spans or as Bret Easton Ellis puts it, the “collective impatience with fiction,” but these dialogues tend to miss the mark.

    It is the inevitability of the book, as sacred as it has been, to give over to the whims of the digital mainstream. It is not a death sentence. Unless we as a people devolve to Idiocracy proportions, it is not the end of innovative intellectual thought and creation. It is a call to maintain and enhance its strength and accessibility through new technologies. There will still be artists creating for the joy of being interpreted, and a readership that finds the joy and purpose in doing so.

    Which leads me to retract my previous statements about House of Leaves as aiming a loaded gun at literary criticism—thinking more about it and Danielewski’s own comments made me realize there is more to it than that. It seems to be a consciousness of the world of critique, of theory, of pedagogy—and how this awareness can infiltrate the writer’s process of writing. Creativeness becomes more self-conscious, more climate conscious, a writer with serious ambitions and literary desires must write in a way that can create dialogues and commands respect (much like the serious musician). (S)he must utilize their technological moment to the greatest advantage, in a way most beneficial to their intended meaning—whether it is a full embrace or downright rejection of the latest tools and innovations.

    The types that have always been interested in literature will continue to be so, even if the text is projected directly onto the eyes with book glasses. Reading, for as long as there are civilized cultures, will remain a preferred avenue through which to view them.

  12. So after thinking for a long time about what I’d write for this thing, I finally came up with something that I am able to feel strongly about. I can’t speak for everyone, but I often hear from parents, relatives, and friends, “what are you going to do with an English major?” I’m going to propose a change for the field of literary study that I think would make it a more accessible discipline in the future.

    Currently the popular view of literary analysis is something of an ivory tower, trapped in an academic cycle. An English teacher is the career that most people think about as a suitable job for an English major. Essentially, we study literature to then teach the study of literature to others who will then go on to teach literature. Literary analysis is viewed as having no practical use in everyday life and pointless outside of academia.

    In this class, however, we have arrived at a different view. The study of literature teaches focus, helps us notice details. These skills are very practical. Consider a cellphone plan, or any “terms of agreement” type of document. These are long, uninteresting documents that very few actually read thoroughly, which is unfortunate as they detail how our money will be spent. The same skills that are acquired in suffering through, say, Dicken’s “Great Expectations”, a novel some three-hundred pages in length, can train us to read through one or two or however many pages are in a cellphone plan.

    This brings up the second issue with literary analysis: the canon. This basically consists of books written long ago that have been deemed somehow culturally important. While the books may have merit in their own right, because they were written so long ago they are a deterrent for those who dislike reading or have anything less than a strong interest in literature. The sciences have similar highly regarded works, “On the Origin of Species” and biology for example, those aren’t required readings, only the important concepts from them are taught. I propose that these books are no long required reading in high schools and middle schools. If main draw of the discipline is going to be the practicality of the skill, then what books are used to teach this skill shouldn’t matter. Close reading can be done on any piece of literature whether it was written centuries ago or in the last year. This would not only make the field more approachable but also more engaging the students. That isn’t to say that the canon shouldn’t be taught at all. If the students do have a strong interest in literature, then they can still choose to continue the discipline after high school of their own accord, and they’ll likely appreciate those books more than those who are forced to read them in high school now.


    Author and blogger Steve Umstead, in a post about the future of reading and its relationship to the e-reader, said “it’s never been a better time to be a writer!”. His column delineates the projected growth of the e-reader industry, which shows that already, as we know, sales of e-books are outstripping the sales of books in print, and it would appear there is no turning back.
    Craig Mod would agree with Umstead. He said, “We’re losing the dregs of the publishing world: disposable books… These are the first books to go. And I say it again, good riddance“. What’s happening, according to Mod, is that these “disposable books” are—finally—being phased out of print, mainly as a result of the fact that it simply is cheaper, and more accessible, to publish them in the form of an e-book.
    Both articles have led me to the conclusion that it’s not only never been better to be a writer, as Umstead says, but maybe now is the best time to be a writer, as long as you’re not hoping to see your work in print anytime soon.
    The new advances in digital media will not completely phase out the printed book; instead, it will actually raise the average quality of what books will be in print. This is not necessarily because of a higher quality of writing (maybe so), but because the less quality the writing is, the less chance it has to make it into print.
    The future of literary reading is that print will just have to become more sophisticated, with Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves being the shinning example. Print will have to revolutionize itself to maintain the sales battle with its digital brethren, which it will eventually lose, but not because print has failed as a whole. Digital media will continue to be a much, much larger market than print because of all of its advantages (instant access, environmentally friendly, ease of transportation, ect.), but that does not mean that it will produce the higher quality.
    A response to Mod’s article said “I find it difficult to fully engage any text unless I have the option of throwing it across the room”. The author of this quote, “Peter”, gives two small insights into the future of literary reading. First, print is not dying. It’s shrinking. As others have written, literary reading in the “tradition sense” will be for those who simply choose not to use digital equivalents for the sole reason that they prefer the former to the latter. Peter wants to be able to touch his book, turn its pages, feel the bindings, and most of all, he doesn’t want to have to worry about its durability in comparison to the fragile nature of e-reading devises.
    The second insight “Peter” provides is that people are still having difficulty giving their full, and unbroken concentration to reading from a screen instead of a piece of paper. The numbers show that the masses are slowly warming up to screen reading, but people are still buying books, too. Just because the numbers are diminishing, it doesn’t mean that they will disappear all together. Not everyone has 200-500 extra dollars to invest in an e-reader. Many people just don’t read enough to make the purchase worth the price.


    This article is in a similar vein to Gina’s, as it addresses the topic of e-books being sold at a low price. I will however focus on a different aspect of E-books. Mainly, author’s “gaming” of the economics of Amazon’s pricing system.

    It’s interesting because the success of the man’s novel is mostly due to dynamic price changing, (some controversy), and a small amount of social networking. I find the social networking aspect interesting, but I’ll go after that later.

    In the past the success or failure of a novel was a combination of a quality product (by the author), and successful printing/marketing. Most authors did not have the tools to print a book on their own, let alone thousands, and as a result publishing houses gained an absurd amount of power. Now that authors are able to go straight digital they are able to wield this power, but they may not have the finesse to do it well.
    The fact that anyone can create and distribute any type of media has created a lot of “noise”. There are millions of pieces of media out there, because of this it seems like it would be impossible for anyone to rise to the top. This is where the “finesse”, or marketing comes in.
    Some people are damn good at this type of thing, and some aren’t. Looking at this from a standpoint that disregards actual content, you can get your product out there, or fail to have it be seen. A great novel could sit on the digital “shelf” for years, while a pop novel could skyrocket if properly advertised. The author put some effort in through Ipad/kindle prizes on twitter, and this seems to have gotten his novel out of the noise.
    Once he got out of the noise he did something interesting. He rode the 99 cent train all the way to the top 100, and then changed it back to 2.99. This changed things dramatically, “”When I went to 99 cents, I was going for longevity,” Smith says. Later, when he was firmly planted in the Top 100, he started playing with pricing and listed the book back at $2.99. For every $2.99 book he sold on the Kindle, he needed to sell six books at 99 cents to make the same amount of money. While he drifted downward on the best-seller list, if he priced at $2.99, he says he was making significantly more money.“
    I can see the future of books, or at least popular books, becoming more similar to online social networking. If people are able to harness the power of websites like twitter, reddit, or facebook, they may have a better chance of becoming successful as working authors. As far as the quality of these books goes, its up for debate. You could make the argument that publishing houses have always had quality in mind, but the fact is that there could be 100’s of mind-blowing novels sitting in rejection piles in warehouses, waiting to be read. If these same authors put effort into digital marketing, they may be able to make some money on their product. If they get good enough at it they might even become rich and famous.
    Some might find this disheartening, but not me. This actually excites me. If you manage to create a great piece of work, and you market it well your success is more likely than if you had to go through a publishing firm. Just the fact that you can get your own product out there makes you more likely to succeed.

  15. Again, and again, over the course of the class, as we discuss issues brought up by technology and the distractions it causes in the consumption of literature, I cant help but feel that the concern for the future of literary reading is unwarranted. Literature, just like all art, is progressive and will always incorporate new elements into its form. Elements such as hyperlinking on the Internet, control schemes in a video game, or the social networking features of an eReader are just as capable of being analyzed as they are capable of being a distraction. It is the very nature of literacy that content will change over the course of time and that mediums and technologies will influence this change. Those learning and teaching literature should not discount new media any sooner then they discount “the classics.” There seems to be a disregard for the ability to “close read” or analyze the content of new media by some of the authors we have read. While these subjective views on content can be argued with no resolution, a more troubling argument is made regarding our ability to focus.
    This argument seems to be rooted in the loss of future consumption of canonical texts due to our changing attention patterns. Some believe that our brains are developing in a fundamentally different way thanks to the “instant gratification” provided by the Internet and other electronic and that this will inevitably lead to an inability to focus and analyze revered works of the past. I believe that the future of literature and the literary need not be devoid of traditional deep reading of canonical works, but rather, a rededication to them. It bothers me that some of the testimonials we heard from teachers included a shift in educational practices to accommodate for the “partial attention” that supposedly results from our media rich world. I believe that this form of adaptation is the greatest threat to the survival of “the literary.” While I support and even champion the inclusion new media elements into the literary discussion, it should not be at the expense of the classics and the traditional method of deep reading. Without a doubt, the way one teaches House of Leaves, Toc, or Bioshock will be different from the way that one teaches The Cage or War and Peace but we need not broadly overhaul the way in which literature is taught but rather make smaller adjustments to accommodate for new media. The very argument that new media and technology are shortening our attention span and ability to focus, that our brains have plasticity and the ability to change at a fundamental level based on the stimulus they receive, shows that we can influence and promote traditional literary practices simply by maintaining exposure to it. Rather than trying to “modernize” the classics to preserve them in the future, we should strive to preserve them in their traditional register while accepting new media and the new registers it brings.
    I would be more than content if the future of literature and the literature unfolded in the following way. Deep reading being promoted at every level of education, starting from elementary school with times dedicated to the act of reading and analyzing traditional bound books. At the same time, providing technical education on the operation of the peripherals of new media, i.e. a computer lab, which includes instructions on how to conduct an effective “search.” At the middle school and high school level, an introduction to new media work such as Bioshock, or Toc and the literary merits of such work. Introduce this very debate so that there is an awareness of what’s at stake. I believe that the fact that our media logs shocked some of us at the college level shows that the problem of partial attention is not being realized early enough. I believe that if we do all this while traditional reading practices and canonical works are being taught consistently, we can preserve the traditional aspects of reading while allowing for its growth into new media. Finally we must never loose sight of the subjective nature of the literary and this features effect on our debate. Some will not grasp literary concepts simply because a lack of interest, effort, or capability. Some may be able to analyze and deep read Grapes of Wrath while considering Bioshock to be the greatest literary work of all time. The “all or nothing” tone that has been taken by many who show concern (that we have read) seems to disregard the way in which subjective interests color our literary and attention patterns. For me, the most vital characteristic of the literary that needs to be preserved is the ability to hone critical analysis. Whether this is done from a bound book or in front of a screen is irrelevant.

  16. If we take a general overview of our nation’s reading habits, we are neither here nor there; we increasingly read digital text, while certain spheres overwhelmingly prefer print media. Whether it’s because of the impracticability—or flat-out inaccessibility for some—of e-readers, mobile devices and computers, we still see people with books (the primary site of influence remaining the K-12 school system, although digital media is gradually working its way into the institution). This cultural liminality has caused panic for many, with people like Nicholas Carr lamenting the “death”–a word many have used–of print.

    Barbara W. Tuchman opined that “Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” While many can certainly agree that Tuchman’s quote is out-dated (even if accurate at the time she said it), her statement sheds light on our current reluctance to let go, so to speak, of the book. The symbiotic relationship Tuchman sets up between the book and literature is one of dependence; that is, literature is dependent upon the book to exist and, if in existence, to be consumed. This relationship has perhaps been viewed in more mutualistic terms, if even as a relationship at all; the physicality of the book and the literary arts have often been equated. Before the rise of the e-reader and the Internet, the phrase “I’m reading a book” seemed to imply that the speaker was reading literature; conversely, if one said “I am reading ‘Moby Dick,’” the speaker was assumed to be reading “Moby Dick,” the work of literature, in the form of a book.

    This is no longer the case, but it is not cause for panic.

    Yet do not misunderstand me; I love the book. The particular sensory aesthetic that comes with a book—haptic, olfactory, visual—cannot be replaced by digital media apparatuses such as the Kindle or iPad. That I and many others prefer reading a book because of its material pleasure does not, however, mean that the book is inherently superior to an e-reader; these beliefs are value judgments which, in the long run, will be limited to a minority, if it is not already. That being said, Craig Mod makes a fantastic distinction between texts that have what he calls “Formless content” and “Definite content”; future literary works like “House of Leaves” that draw attention to the form of a book should—and will, I suspect—remain in book form. The content of works like “Moby Dick,” which include much of the literary canon, can be enjoyed and interpreted on a Kindle just the same as if it were in a book.

    The future of literary reading, in whatever form the literature assumes, is more difficult to predict. First of all, the boundaries of literature are nebulous. In class, we have seen the limits of what is “literature” stretched and even partly dismantled. In his introduction to “Literary Theory: An Introduction,” Terry Eagleton asks, “what is literature?” and discusses the difficulty in defining literature, both objectively and subjectively. Interactive novels like Steve Tomasula’s “TOC” and electronic texts such as Talen Memmott’s “Lexia to Perplexia” have been defined as literature; even certain textual components of video games can be perceived as “literary.” As technology rapidly changes, devices such as the Kindle and iPad will accommodate for even more digital and literary experimentation; increasingly, more things will fit into the expansive category—if it can even be called such—of literature.

    It has been said that a literary text is both static and dynamic; the words on its pages forever stay the same, while the experience changes not only on an individual basis, but more widely on social and historical levels. Now we can read texts that play with physical dynamics as we read them: pixels flash on and off, words re-arrange themselves before our eyes, and meaning changes depending on where we click and don’t click. I suspect that the majority will increasingly prefer these more immediately stimulating forms of media. I also believe that, if we are to limit the scope of the “literary” to Mod’s “formless content,” it is within the purview of e-readers and the like to ensure the survival of “traditional” literary works.

    Literary reading in the sense that we speak of today will remain for a time. New forms of literature and digital formats will assimilate (more than it already has) into literary study, schools will experiment with teaching digital literacy (while continuing to teach traditional literature), and some consumers will continue to read books (even if those consumers become mainly high school students and literature majors). As many before me have said, there is no reason why print and digital media cannot co-exist for as long as people find value in reading books, whether that lasts until the next millennium or a century from now.

  17. With the closure of several bookstores and the recent increase in “interactive” digital readings such as Tomasula’s TOC, Memmott’s Lexia to Perplexia, Mez’s] [] and “Strange Rain” for the iPad, it seems inevitable that the number of quality, print-based books will dwindle. However creative and interactive the new media/ book seems to be, I would not exchange the traditional book for them. I just do not feel that readers or participants can attain the same intriguing and concentrated literary experience one can attain from a novel. The weight and feel of the book, the convenience/practicality in carrying it around without worrying it will break, the book itself as a form of art—all these are elements of the traditional book that would be lost if we were to only use ebooks.
    Game-like (or New Media) ‘novels’ although initially intriguing and innovative, do not really allow the reader to ‘deep read.’ One cannot really go at one’s own pace (the audio from Tomasula’s TOC) and in some instances, one cannot even read the narrative (Lexia to Perplexia). These new interactive forms of reading are summed up perfectly in John Pavlus’ “Strange Rain” iPad App: A Glimpse at Novels of the Future”: “But kudos to Opertoons for attempting to add an intriguing narrative element to an app format that — although well-intentioned — usually gets old after about 45 seconds.”
    The future of literary reading will be both enhanced and damaged by digital media such as the internet, etc. We have discussed many times the many ways that literary reading has been negatively affected by “growing up digital,” so I won’t really go into that. However, the recent articles we have been assigned in class present ways in which reading and writing have been encouraged or improved by being able to use new media. As is seen in the article, “Electronic reading devices are transforming the concept of a book,” new-media textbooks and novels encourage social networking and global connectivity. People are encouraged to write and contribute, even if may turn not turn out to be particularly good writing or good contributions. Even the advertisement for “Strange Rain” mentions that people are welcome to contribute their own creative photos related to the application or rain in general.
    As a few others have speculated before my post, the traditional book is by no means soon to be extinct because of its practicality, aesthetic form, etc. We will not have to explain to anyone anytime soon (hopefully!) how to use/read an actual book like the speaker in the “Leer esta de moda” video Laurie posted does. I do hope that those “new media novels” do not become the norm anytime soon and although we may see an increase in them, I do not think they will ever become extremely popular. As for the ability to close or deep read—as long as classic literature or writing worth analyzing is produced, it does not matter if it is in digital-based or print-based text as long as the reader reconsiders and re-evaluates how important it is to get the reading done as well as how much they want to get the reading done.

  18. I completely agree with what Erika’s statement that there is no replacement for deep reading a physical text. I really believe that books and this new wave of “interactive” reading should be kept separate. I don’t see the problem with creating a whole new category/subject in school completely independent from literature. Why not along with all your other classes implement a technology class? These technology classes could cover a range of subjects: anywhere from keyboard work, powerpoint, to video games and interactive “reading”. I feel that this move to disassociate technology from deep reading with further to keep the art of the book intact. For me when I read a book, it is all about the experience of escaping into another world. The effort it takes to concentrate on reading the words has the ability to captivate all my senses. While “reading” something like TOC I found myself distracted by other things and was definitely not fully captivated. In a piece like TOC they provide all the imagery, leaving little for your brain to imagine on your own. Although I can see the positives in this new “interactive reading” I would not consider it reading. I am very protective over the idea of the book, and am very sad that most bookstores are closing. I feel like if this distinction were made between reading and this technological movement I would be much more receptive to the latter. It is an exciting enterprise and has the opportunity to push boundaries of analysis on different levels. I just wish I didn’t feel as thought it is a constant attack on the physical books I grew up loving.

    Watching this clip of Ezra Klein really made me see the positives of things like the kindle, and positives of being able to interact with others when discussing books. The ability to blog and go on forums gives reading a more group like feel, where I always saw it as independent and solitude.

    Also, while searching youtube for insight on our literary future, I came upon this video that I found interesting. Why do people continuously resist the idea new technology? Instead of embracing what it can do for our society.


    I’ve been reflecting on the future of literary reading for quite sometime. Every time I believe that I have figured it out, I read another article that refutes those points that a previously thought were valid. Therefore, I turn to facts to aid me in my research. It is a fact that publication houses are no longer making as much money as they use to. It is a fact that reading paper-bound books has gone down. However it is still a fact that the book is still in existence.
    The future of literary reading, in my opinion, will be in the form of a screen. While the book occupies a certain niche, it is a niche that is slowly growing smaller and smaller as more publishing occurs in the form of eBooks. However, I do not believe that this is detrimental to change deep reading into a different form. I feel that Josh Quittner summed it up quite well in his article for Fortune, “It’s a persuasive argument. People definitely want to browse. And using your headline, along with a few key bits of content, is fair use and legal. But many also crave deep reading experiences. Man does not live by blog alone! It would be like surviving entirely on cupcakes.” Just because people crave convenience, it does not mean that they do not crave deep reading experiences. If this were the case people would not pick up books like House of Leaves or Tree of Codes. Reading regardless of its media, still portrays the same ideas. I may pick up a book at a book store and its cover maybe slightly torn, the coverart faded, the pages dogtagged, however that does not change the words or ideas that are conveyed in it. If you want the feel of a used book, to see the annotations other have made, blogs could easily accommodate that, as well as .doc files with notes in the margins. The ancient Chinese in the Ming era use to have the comments of esteemed authors and publishers write in the margin of books and publish the book in that way. I see no reason as to why that could not re-occur for those that crave the input of others.
    I do not believe that by transitioning the book into another format that it is giving up on deep reading, rather it is giving more people the opportunity to read, if they want to read it. While I will mourn the death of the “book” as we conceive it now, pages bound between covers, it is not something I see all together lost. So long as the books I know and love are transitioned into electronic medium, I will not mourn them long and I will adapt, just as I believe everyone else will.

  20. As electronic reading devices gain popularity, the world of literature and reading is undoubtedly changing. I don’t think that this change means the death of the book, however. In the next decade, as more bookstores go out of business, the physical book may come to be romanticized. LPs are a rarity for our generation, and the few kids our age that have extensive collections take great pride in them. The physical book could one day take on this sort of collector mystique. Although itunes has greatly impacted the sale of cd’s, there are still record stores. In the same way that buying an album on itunes cannot replace the feeling opening a new cd from the store, and looking through the booklet; down loading books on a Kindle can’t replace browsing through the aisle of the bookstore. There is something more intimate to me about holding a paperback than an ipad, and whether or not younger generations will share in this sentiment is to be determined. I know that in the long run, a Kindle might be more cost effective given the number of books I purchase, but the additional cost is well worth it. Electronic texts certainly have a growing following, but with every invention, there will be those who are resistant. In this way, the future of reading can be subjective to the individual’s desired medium for media consumption.

  21. I’ve been struggling to figure out what I think the future of literary reading will look like.

    I can’t help but feel that books aren’t going anywhere, even if the market shrinks. They will no longer be the sole, dominant medium, but that won’t rule them out. They have too much going for them: tactility, sentimental value, the ability to be signed by authors, etc. I feel like a large amount of text will naturally swing toward new mediums, however. It just works well to appeal to more senses when storytelling. I personally suspect that the gaming realm will split (more) noticeably into two or more categories of works, stuff that is literary and ‘high-culture’ in nature and stuff that is ‘trashy’ (akin to contemporary teenage vampire romance novels).

    When I think about how novels began, I’m pretty convinced that future forms will follow a similar pattern. The novel was often belittled in its infancy for how vulgar, pretentious, and overly personal it was. The future of literature almost certainly must go through a similar process before it can be held as sacrosanct by academics.

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