What might the digital revolution we’re currently living through mean for conventional paper books? Is there a future for the long-form text at all? At the onset of the digital deluge, books had evolved into the perfect reading machine. In the screen era, technology increasingly and emphatically foregrounds itself in the digital reading experience. It is one thing to identify what we lose in the process (which is a natural human tendency), but quite another and, it might be argued, an ultimately more fruitful one, to identify how that screen technology might shape the activities for which we always used to use paper. Screen technology is likely to determine our learning and entertainment habits. Indeed, the ‘industrial’ forms of reading that may be performed by the computer have a very tenuous relationship to what we have always understood by the term. Awareness of the issues, and eventually new insights, are essential if we want screen technology to offer a digital future to the long-form text.
Joost Kircz is emeritus reader in electronic publishing at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.Adriaan van der Weel is Bohn Professor of Modern Dutch Book History at the University of Leiden, the European editor of Digital Humanities Quarterly, and the author of Changing Our Textual Minds: Towards a Digital Order of Knowledge.