Purgatorial Print

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Ah, the persistent "lingering hegemony of print." It's an apropos description. Pair it with Leo's idea of "printed purgatory," and it really sounds like tradition is digging in its heels. We're comfortable with print. We understand it. So using the metaphors that come with print seems appropriate. As new technologies become available, they are given metaphorical descriptions with which we are already familiar. Leo indicates this comfort with print throughout his article. Despite the possibility to move behind a tangible book with pages, we are still the "culture of the book." It's a result of culture. Leo discusses academe's attitude toward the book as one "rooted in the belief that the printed book is intrinsic to scholarship." So shall the scholars be blamed for the lingering hegemony of print?

To that, I would say, yes, they partially should. They defined "book" and are not as ready as Bob Stein was to redefine and resignify its meaning. Academe is set in its meanings, ideologies, and semiotics. It almost seems that fear is grounded in the fear that "when we lose the weight of the bound book" our words will "lose weight as well" (Leo). But who are those in academe who have such fears? There are also those in academe who are determining where digital scholarship can take us. ConsiderThe Journal of Visual Experiments (by JoVE!)? Or what about Kairos. (Speaking of which, "What's in a Name? The Anatomy of Defining New/Multi/Modal/Digital/Media Texts" appears in the Fall 2012 issue. How relevant, seeing how it is addressing the lingering hegemony of print in its own way.) These cases seem more like boutique scholarship, whereas chain store scholarship still seems to love its printed books.

And that love of print in academe has trickled down to the popular masses. Academe's "culture of the book" sounds responsible for the "emotional attachment to the paper book" that Richtel and Miller mentioned.

Why this need for a printed book? Habit? Comfort? I'm guilty of this in certain cases. I still want a printed copy of anything I plan to annotate. Even though I can create annotations digitally, the act of writing with a pen or pencil is not the same as typing letters on my keyboard. If I write with a writing utensil on a tangible page, I find I remember what I've read and what I've written better than if I'd typed that same annotation. So I'll take a book over a Kindle in this situation. I feel as if my reason is logical. (Maybe it's sentimental; who knows?). But something tells me the emotional attachment to books trumps the current logic of digital texts.

How do we wean ourselves off of the printed book? Bob Stein knows the answer: redefine the meaning. Or, what if we create a new word that signifies digital and/or networked texts? I like where N. Katherine Hayles begins with her definition of e-lit: it is "generally considered to exclude print literature that has been digitized," and "is by contrast 'digital born.'" What if we stop comparing digital texts to printed books? What if we start to treat them as their own, original entities? I believe this is one of the steps that needs to be taken to make digital texts, not books, accepted more widely.

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