The War Between Print and Digital Text

Book vs. E-Book

Book vs. E-Book

Writing technologies are always changing. Currently, we are in a shift from a print based text to electronic text on a screen. Major writing technologies have shifted over time from the printing press to the typewriter to the word processor. When these technologies are first introduced, resistance is always a typical reaction. It is usually due to the fact that people are comfortable with the current technology, so they give the cold shoulder to a new and more efficient one. For instance, my grandmother still writes and mails letters despite the widespread use of E-Mail. She claims that writing letters is more personal. As a digital native, I look at this idea as foolish because E-Mail is instantaneous and does not require the cost of a postal stamp. People tend to fear the unknown, which is likely why any new technology is not viewed in the best light when first introduced. Users of the current technology, such as books for instance, know that taking on a new writing technology will require them to also forego one in which they are content.

This current switchover from print to digital text is interesting, because we are currently living through this change. I now own both printed and electronic books, creating a bridge between the two writing technologies. I am not alone in this type of book collection. However, many people are resistant of the new electronic books, or e-books, that are read from a screen, claiming that it lessens the quality of the book itself. It is safe to say that “because the tension between print and digital forms, the idea of the book is changing” (Bolter 3). Curling up with a good story today means it could be a book or an electronic tablet. No longer does a book have to require physical paper pages, but also has the option of virtual ones as well.

In the fast paced digital age, immediacy is an essential tool to success. While printed text has permanence; virtual text has the ability to be altered and extended. For instance, anytime I am composing a paper and want to help my reader to further understand my topic, I usually add a hyperlink into my text. This allows for the reader to click on the link and be taken to a webpage that will help them gain even more insight. These hyperlinks are instantaneous, and have the ability to link to any web page in existence. (Try clicking on the Bolter link!) Because our society places a high value on speed, “claims of greater immediacy are constantly being made, as new and old media vie for our attention” (Bolter 26). Both digital and print are in a tug of war of popularity. However the winner will be the one that provides the greatest immediacy to its users. Based on my experience with both writing technologies, I think it is safe to say that the printed text will eventually lose this battle.

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Writing and its Technological Advances

Technology has opened a whole new door for writing. Not only is it more time suitable, but it is also much more easy to write, publish, and become noticed. Writing started as a delicacy. Few people knew how to write, and when someone wanted something to be written, big bucks were paid to do so. It amazes me how far writing and the technological advances involved with writing have come. Even in this century, authors would spend years and years writing a book. It would have to go to an editor, a publisher, a distributor, and then finally to the stores. Now all writers have to do (if they don’t want to send it to an editor) is click “Submit” and there their piece will be, in all its glory on a webpage.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Georgia Institute of Technology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

J. D. Bolter, a chair director at the Georgia Institute of Technology, has work published on technology and computer science. In his book, Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print, Bolter states “the shift to the computer may make writing more flexible, but it also threatens the definition of good writing and careful reading that have developed in association with the technique of printing” (4). This brings up a valid argument. It is a proven fact when articles are on the computer, more people will skim through them, but when people have a physical paper copy in their hands, they will read it more thoroughly than they would reading on the computer screen. This is likely to happen because looking at the computer screen can be an eyesore. Unless an article is written in lists, there are bolded font, or the sentences are real short and to the point, people are going to breeze through a reading, not giving it the careful concentration it may need.

Bolter also brings to point that now, there are much more than words to reading. Reading an article with just words is now considered boring. Visual and digital technologies are what entice the reader. Print now comes in many forms such as photographs, films, and televisions (26). Bolter explains “the best way to understand electronic writing today is to see it as the remediation of printed text…” (26). Bolter is saying that computerized print is much more basic than the printed text. This can be true in many ways. First, printed text can be hard to read, depending on the person who is writing. Normally, word processers take away that issue with having many clear fonts to select from. Printed text may also seem remedial because of the time difference. Writing out text is more time consuming than simply typing it up.

There are many benefits to the technological advances of writing. Though many people may be bitter to the fact that not many people use books anymore, they have to accept that this is what is happening. Hopefully sooner or later these people will find some sort of pleasing aspect to digital literacy, like the rest of us have.