Is it possible to give a “hat tip” to oneself? (Consider it a self-citation.) My recent thread on traditions of scholarly communication in the Humanities (here and here) reminded me of a piece I originally posted to a now mothballed blog back in early 2009. Last year I transferred the post to the library blog that I administer.
The post is entitled “When you’re used to paper rolls it takes some time to convert to turning pages of a book,” which reflects, from the context of a now well-known Norwegian television comedy sketch (with almost 3.3 million views on YouTube), on the process of social and cultural resistance and adoption to innovations in computer technology.
I imagine that many people watching this video will, in fact, identify with the described situation while thinking of an analogous modern situation, such as learning to use a computer, a new piece of software, or the latest consumer electronics gadget. But as a librarian, I am interested in the described situation itself. Although the historical time-frame is off slightly, the sketch allows me to imagine the cultural, intellectual, and (even) emotional processing that accompanied the technological transition in the form of the book from roll/scroll to codex.
With the benefit of this perspective, I can extrapolate some of the processing required as we are once again approaching a credible point of transition in book form from paper to electronic (i.e., the so-called e-book). I am not interested in speculating about the imminent demise of the ink on paper book, which I do not see. Rather, and at the risk of over-analyzing a two-and-a-half minute bit of humor, I am interested in thinking about human interaction with and reactions to technology at points of significant technological transition, such as the maturing of the e-book format, which I do think is now well underway.
If a codex can become a ‘real’ book even if at one time it was not deemed to be so, then by analogy an e-book should be able to acquire a similar authorization. It’s just a question of time.
That “bold” predictive statement from early 2009 now sounds almost quaint, especially in view of a report released this week from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which found that 21% of Americans had read an e-book in the last year, coinciding with a major increase in ownership of e-book readers and tablet computers (although print books still dominate).