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Prior to the release of the Amazon Kindle in November 2007, Stephen Levy commented in his Newsweek article, “Amazon: Reinventing the Book,” on the concept of the book as an invention. Quoting Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos directly, Levy writes that “‘books are the last bastion of analog.” This phrasing suggests the book as a set of definable qualities that can be manipulated, redefined, and commodified.  But Levy also issues a warning that eventually “the surge of technology will engulf all media.” In an ever-increasing mass market of iPads, computers, and eBooks, 21st-century technology will redefine the codex of literature and the reading experience in the same way that the codex once revolutionized reading by moving away from the scroll. Watch this comic video, which comments on this anxiety.  

The idea of a book as a physical object may prove obsolete. What we are now witnessing is the transformation of active material into archival relics. The digitalization of the book emerges as a product of its culture, but to focus solely on such editions crafts a false tale that loses the humanness associated with the craft. We trade sensory experience for portability and convenience. When we become more used to reading screens, does the reading process change? 

If you have an interest in the history of the book and the study of the object itself, then methodology may help to guide your investigation. In 1982, social historian Robert Darnton proposed his “communications circuit” in his article “What is the History of Books?” (found in his The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History book) Although Darnton ultimately modified this thesis within his “‘What is the History of Books’ Revisited? This is an interesting tool for examining the 'life cycle' of the book.
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TED-Ed
Lesson Creator
New York, NY
05/26/2016 • 
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