Now Available in Color

by Rachel Blum Spencer on February 3, 2010 · 3 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Culture, High & Low,Short

Just when it seemed that the Kindle had taken the “book” out of book-worm, Apple decided to take the “reading” out of e-reader. When unveiling the acclaimed iPad, Steve Jobs eulogized the short lived Kindle, saying “Amazon’s done a great job of pioneering this functionality with the Kindle. We’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a little further.”

It’s not that the iPad boasts a larger library than Kindle. Kindle brings over 400,000 books to the light of an LCD screen, while iPad’s number of publishing launch partners is smaller. Reading capacity is not, however, why Apple plans to outsell Amazon. Unlike the Kindle, iPad offers full color and video. Not only that, but 140,000 addition applications (from video games, to twitter, facebook, iTunes, photos, and web browsing) offer a welcome respite to readers who don’t really, well, want to read.

In turn, Kindle is promising to amp up its product, adding more applications and iPad color and video capabilities soon. The jury’s still out on which will boast higher sales, but the exhibits confirm that using an e-reader to read books is about as arcane as using lunch dates for social networking.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar John Médaille February 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I think y’all are missing something here: literacy does not depend on the medium, and the printed word has some real drawbacks. For example (and with apologies to all my Protestant friends) Protestantism itself is an artifact of the printing press and cheap paper; that is why it arises when it does. After all, it is pointless to assert that “every plowman can interpret the Bible” when Bibles cost more than a buick, when they consume a significant portion of one’s life to copy and a herd of sheep for parchment.

Just as the “old” media resulting in new ways of reading the Bible, so will the new media. The jury’s out on just what this new means will be, but my hunch is that it will be a more catholic, orthodox, and sacramental Protestant reading. In my own case, I can read it comparing several translations at once, read the Greek with a grammar and a lexicon (actually several lexicons) a push button away, as well as instant commentary from People Who Should Know, or at least people who know more than I do.

My objection to Kindle and iPad have to do with Digital Rights Management, the effort to “sell” me something, yet still own it. But aside from that, I am an enthusiastic supporter of the new media. It is interesting to not, btw, that Socrates opposed the “new” medium of writing; he thought it would deteriorate the arts of memory. He was wrong about the pen, but he turned out to be right about print.

avatar Patrick O'Bryan February 3, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I tend to agree with Rachel on this one. It’s entirely true that new media can be used for edifying purposes, but in practice the further integration of high-tech media into daily lives has led to abominations like the twitter church and laser light show services far more than to a return to more traditional modes of contemplation and worship. And it’s not so much an issue of how people socialized long ago respond to the blessings of new media, but how technology shapes the habits of today’s youth, and the reports on this do not look promising. The same capacities that allow one to read the Septuagint with several grammars and lexica open make it possible to sit in the twitter church and “listen” to the pastor while accessing facebook and IMing with one’s BFF. In my experience (viewing myself at times, unfortunately, as well as friends), the latter is closer to the truth for the majority of today’s young people.

Also, viewing the Reformation as a product of the printing press tends to lead to the corollary that the Catholic Church requires censorship or some other form of restriction of information to be prominent, and that is a highly discouraging notion.

http://www.popecenter.org/clarion_call/article.html?id=2120 – A professor on the “post-literacy” of modern students.

http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1895463,00.html – The twitter church.

avatar John Médaille February 6, 2010 at 4:02 pm

I think you can find examples of nonsense in any media; the question is how widespread the nonsense becomes, how normative it is. Let me suggest that the “hot type” bible has made nonsense normative. The bible, now a unified “book” with a single author (God) is converted into a stream of theological one-liners, divorced from any real liturgy, and each phrase divorced from its own context. Or at least, this is the impression I get watching certain fundamentalist preachers on TV, where bible-toting followers are directed from this passage to that, so that the texts are always considered apart from their context and connected to each other only by the preacher’s private hermeneutic. But that’s not what the bible is; that’s not what any text is.

This was not possible before the printing press. It was not a matter of “requiring censorship.” It is just that such a reading requires everybody have their own book. In a manuscript culture, this was impossible. Since one medium was inadequate, the content of the bible was conveyed in many forms: icons, stained glass, statues, preaching, story-telling, songs, psalms, liturgy, etc. Everybody, even (or especially) the illiterate, had a multi-faceted view of any particular incident in the bible, because it was received through a variety of forms, text being just one, and not necessarily the most important.

I think the new media restores some aspects of the manuscript culture, and adds some views of its own. The bible once again is not just a text. It can read, to be sure, but also heard, illustrated, performed, commented on, given a sound-track, or what have you. The appreciation of the Bible will also be a critique of a particular presentation. And so it can be for any text; text itself will not be the major source of truth, merely the foundational source.

Let me suggest that a teacher understands this instinctively. The lecture is more than the words, and the truth the teacher effectively conveys will depend on more than just the words, but also on the presentation. I think the new media opens up new possibilities. I think orthodoxy missed the last round, but should not make that mistake again.

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