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Somewhat OT now: Re: [mythsoc] Mythies with E-readers

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  • John Davis
    (Rather off-topic from Tolkien, and indeed E-readers, but as a reply to Travis I hope y all forgive me.) Hi Travis, One lengthy post deserves another...! Like
    Message 1 of 40 , Feb 18, 2011
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      (Rather off-topic from Tolkien, and indeed E-readers, but as a reply to Travis I hope y'all forgive me.)
       
      Hi Travis,
       
      One lengthy post deserves another...!
       
      Like many people I guess, I spend my day staring at a computer screen, often writing or editing. But when I read for enjoyment, I'd always rather read a 'real', paper and ink book. But more than that, I'd far rather read an old, second-hand book than a new copy. In fact, I stopped reading a new version of Blackwood's Human Chord after a chapter or so, and went and found an old 1920s version, which I enjoyed far more. I just find the touch, the smell, the look of an old book to be so much more aesthetically pleasing. It is a pleasing crafted object in itself, regardless of the words it contains.
       
      Can I justify these preferences in any way? With regard to printed vs. screen, I think I can. I've grown up with computers, but even so, I find that as a proofreader I'll catch so many more errors if reading a printed manuscript than when proofing on screen. Perhaps this is because we are so used to skimming material that appears on a screen, whilst something printed demands our fuller attention, but at any rate I am certainly more effective proofreading on paper than on screen, despite having proofread on screen for over a decade now. As for the appeal of a book, and in particular an old book, its aeshetic value, for me, somehow connects with what I'm reading in my mind to create a fuller experience. If I think back on a book, I recall not only its plot but its touch, its feel, its smell, and this all serves to create a 'fuller' memory, so that recalling one aspect helps recall another, beds the book more securely in my mind, so to speak. I don't find this happens when reading using ereader, etc.
       
      As for writing by hand vs. with a keyboard, I'm in two minds about this. The act of writing by hand (or even on a typewriter where you can't edit so easily) certainly requires a greater commitment to one's writing. When I think of the time it must have taken for many of the great classics to have been written, the dedication of those authors to their art simply blows me away. So if nothing else, if people were forced to write by hand today, it would certainly serve to cull the many over-long and badly-written offerings we see today. On the other hand, as Alana says, typing on a keyboard does make it feel as if there is less barrier between you and your writing, making it easier to express thoughts. (Then again, is easy expression of thought a good thing? Perhaps slowing down one's writing means the word are more considered, and so better?)
       
      And now I'm rambling. But to conclude, personally whilst I do read and write on computers, I much prefer the printed book as a crafted object, and fancy that the commitment - and possibly craft - of those writers who wrote by hand was far greater than those of us who have it so easy today.
       
      John
       
       
       
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Thursday, February 17, 2011 5:44 PM
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Mythies with E-readers

       

      Interesting that Bill West's comment identifies a diminished reading experience of fiction or fantasy literature on an e-reader not felt when reading non-fiction electronically. There's a PhD thesis in teasing that thought out for some brave soul. Here's a possible place to start (please forgive the self-indulgence):


      Regarding the relationship between an artist and his materials, Tolkien once said, ‘Fantasy is made out of the Primary World, but a good craftsman loves his material, and has a knowledge and feeling for clay, stone and wood which only the art of making can give. . . . by the making of Pegasus horses were ennobled' (‘On Fairy-stories’, 53). I wonder if there is not some tangential relationship here to the authoring and reading of stories that connects to Bill's observation about a changed reading experience when done electronically. Are there any noticeable effects on what is produced when one transitions from writing a story onto a page by hand to typing it onto the keys of a typewriter and finally into a word processor via a keyboard? With a typewriter one still had to physically handle each page as it was typed and mistakes were more costly and difficult to conceal. On a computer screen deletions 'magically' disappear and leave no record of themselves (unless you have 'track changes' turned on, :)), and thus one can input words quickly with little concern or cost to whether they are the 'right' words or 'rightly' arranged, etc. Additionally, one often reads most of the 'pages' one has typed from a computer screen and does not physically handle them. Similarly, the reading experience necessarily changes (as Bill has noticed) when reading a story one never really has in their hands. A 'reading device' has been substituted for the 'book'. But the book (if written in the last 20 years) existed first as an electronic file and not as printed pages at all.

      Forgive the ramblings (a result of procrastinating my own PhD thesis!), but I'm now curious what Tolkien's thought that 'a good craftsman loves his material, and has a knowledge and feeling for clay, stone and wood which only the art of making can give' might have to say about a writer's artistic material, and the losses and gains involved in the transitions from pen and paper to ink and typewriter and finally keyboard and pixels. (I am aware that though Tolkien wrote longhand, he typed out most of LOTR's roughly 600,000 words three separate times.) Similarly, what is the effect on the reader of transitioning from printed and bound pages to an electronic reading device, and how might whether one is reading fiction or nonfiction influence the reader's experience.

      (There is a entire related branch to this topic needing to be explored on the effect of hearing stories recited or read aloud, as this was the way most of humanity experienced 'story' before the advent of the printing press.)

      Apologies for the lengthy post--perhaps my first should be my last!

      Cheers,

      Travis Buchanan



      Not all those who wander are lost.
                              


      On Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 4:41 PM, Bill West <billwest48@...> wrote:
       

      I bought a Kobo since I am a Borders employee and wanted to know what I was talking about when I sold it. I also had to downsize my book collection due to health problems and a move into
      Senior Housing. I kept most of my fantasy and sf collection, and some of my history books with
      the hopes I'd be able to replace them with ereader editions.

      The problem was that many of the books I want to replace were published by college
      or university presses. So far most of them are either not digitized or the ebook prices are
      higher than what I paid for the print editions twenty years ago. On the other hand I have found
      many inexpensive or free editions of books I hadn't owned before, such as works by Macaulay,
      and Caryle.

      I haven't downloaded much fantasy as yet outside of some of Andrew Lang's "Fairy" books
      and recently I purchased McKillip's "Bards of Bone Plain". While the latter is still wonderful
      to read, it doesn't feel the same to be reading it off the screen instead of the printed page.
      Strangely enough, I don't have that same sensation reading the nonfiction books.

      Bill West


      On Thu, Feb 17, 2011 at 9:30 AM, Jason Fisher <visualweasel@...> wrote:
       

      Berni, I would welcome this. Would you like to collate together the short comments and paragraphs offered so far into a single cogent piece? I'm afraid I lack the time for it just at the moment, but since it was your idea ...? :)


      From: bernip <bernip@...>
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Wed, February 16, 2011 7:11:11 PM
      Subject: [mythsoc] Mythies with E-readers

       

      It occurs to me that there are probably a number of mythies with a variety of E-readers.  At one point, Kindle was the only game in town, but not any more.
       
      I recently bought an E-reader because we are out of room for more books, and I like to hang on to some of my lighter reading and don't want to have to find a space for it.
       
      I think it would be great to have an article or series of small articles in Mythprint where mythies talk about the E-reader they have - what you like about it, what you don't.  How easy it is to access the books you want.
       
      Who's game?
       
      Berni


    • Lisa Harrigan
      I have an e-reader on my Palm PDA. The screen is almost big enough, and since it is always with me, it means that I always have a few books in my purse without
      Message 40 of 40 , Feb 23, 2011
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        I have an e-reader on my Palm PDA. The screen is almost big enough, and
        since it is always with me, it means that I always have a few books in
        my purse without taking up additional space. Readability is sometimes a
        bit wobbly, but I can enlarge the print to where these older eyes can
        see clear enough to not die of eye strain. Page turnings are more
        frequent, but that is easy with the touch sensitive screen. And books
        with footnotes are much easier to deal with, as the footnote is just a
        screen touch away. Still I can't read it in Bright Light, so I won't be
        using it at the pool any time soon.
        I bought The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings specifically so that I
        could have copies with me whenever I wanted them, and being able to
        search electronically was also a useful function. A Paper Index at the
        back of a book is nice, but direct search is some times more useful. YMMV
        Current plans are to buy a Samsung Galaxy (android) phone soon, and drop
        a reader with my books onto it. The screen is about the same size but
        with an even better resolution, so readability should improve.
        I would love to buy a Color Nook, as many of my favorite magazines
        (Science News, Scientific American, Astronomy) come with lovely color
        pictures and graphs, but I don't necessarily need to have the paper
        copies of the magazines. But I may just end up buying a Color Tablet
        with reader capabilities to avoid 1 trick ponies filling up my purse.
        That is a debate for when the pocketbook recovers from New Phone Purchase.
        Lisa
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