A New Kind of Reading

Johnson claims that digital books will make “the solitary act of reading into something far more social,” and I’m not exactly sure I’m entirely comfortable with that prospect. I own a Kindle, but I turn off any annotations or highlights made by other people. I find highlights in novels unnecessary, but textbook annotations have proven to be very useful in the past.

Lack of Attention

Johnson makes several points in favor of the digitalization of books but halfway through his article he points out one of the dangers of the future of e-books. Johnson states that having “an infinite bookstore at your fingertips…[might] not necessarily [be] so great for that most finite of 21st-century resources: attention.” (3)

The Return of the Cliffhanger?

Predicting how introductions and the first chapter will change with e-books, Johnson foresees, "Clearly, we are in store for the return of the cliffhanger." I'm sorry, but when did it leave? Sure, it may be re-appropriated or receive an Extreme Makeover: E-Book edition if we're to receive free introductions/first chapters; however, it never left. Let's see, J.K. Rowling used them in Harry Potter, Suzanne Collins used them in The Hunger Games, and the entire genre of mystery novels use them from chapter to chapter. It is not like I'm hard-pressed to provide examples.


Welcome to English 487/687, Multi-Touch, Interactive eBooks and the Future of Publishing

So that we can get to know each other a little better, please post a reply to this message in which you

  • describe where you are from
  • give your course of study and year in your graduate or undergraduate program
  • talk about your areas of interest and career goals
  • tell what you would like to get out of this course
  • describe one of your favorite books and what you like about it

I'll start. I've lived in the Clemson area for two years now, having arrived as the new Campbell Chair in Technical Communication at Clemson in Fall 2010. I came here from Purdue University, where I was the Director of Professional Writing and Professor of English for ten years. I earned my PhD from the University of Southern California in "Rhetoric, Linguistics, and Literature." My areas of specialization include rhetorical theory, digital and visual rhetorics, print and digital publishing, information architecture and content management, and film theory and production. In 2002 I founded Parlor Press, an independent scholarly press that has now published about 140 titles. Parlor Press also manages production and editorial operations for a number of journals, including WAC Journal, WPA: Writing Program Administration, Composition Studies, JAEPL, and PRE/TEXT. Clemson is the new institutional home of the WAC Journal (see http://www.clemson.edu/media-relations/4027 for a story about it or the journal site, http://wac.colostate.edu/journal/). Clemson now also hosts KB Journal and The Writing Instructor, both of which are open access scholarly journals. One of my current projects is the development of the (new) Production and Design Studio in the 1941 Studio for Student Communication.

I'm excited for this course because of our focus on the future of the book, a topic interesting in its own right these days, and especially so because of our stress on the future of book design, production, and dissemination. The future of multi-touch, interactive digital books is yet to be written, and one of my goals for the course is that the future begins here and now (!). One of the most recent books I've read and liked is Neal Stephenson's REAMDE, which is about an international pursuit, both virtual and real, of hackers, terrorists, and game developers. The virtual pursuit is in the game world of T'Rain, an MMORPG, but the adventure there leaks into the "meatscape" (as Stephenson might have put it in his cyper-punk novel, Snow Crash).