cory doctorow on concentration, copyright and the codex 09.01.2007, 4:19 PM
posted by sebastian mary
A very entertaining podcast by SF writer, Net activist, and uber-blogger Cory Doctorow covering copyright, concentration, print-on-demand, the future of the codex and more. The problem with electronic books, he suggests, is in part that they are extremely good at distracting you - you need 'monkish, iron self-discipline' to read a long work online. Hence he suggests, one of the best things about the codex is precisely that it isn't electronic - it can't distract you with emails, phone calls, IMs, RSS and all the rest, and is therefore the best tool available to help a reader concentrate on a sustained piece of writing.
He also talks about his new Creative Commons-licensed novel - though frustratingly he doesn't go further into his thoughts around giving away free fiction.
Definitely worth a listen.
Gary Frost on September 2, 2007 7:51 PM:
Reading the codex is a physical act. While the mind is assimilating the conveyed content, manipulative hands, finger dexterities and progressive eye tracking work together to pace and advance a mechanical structure. That these two progressions of comprehension and manipulation merge so well in the codex is one of its special attributes in the context of other reading modes. By contrast, screen based reading requires a variety of prompts, screen loadings and screen drawing transmissions which can distract from attentive reading. Screen text navigation can require a conceptual exercise in itself, at the expense of content assimilation.
It is appropriate to consider overall structural behavior of the codex a wide context, crossing all reading modes. While debate continues over comparative attributes of the scroll of Antiquity and the later codex, the more relevant contest today is between print and screen formats. An array of factors interplay the comparisons of print and screen reading. Exclusive attributes of print for presentation of books are involved. Exclusive attributes of print, as contrasted with screen based, presentation of books include legibility in the sense of immediacy of meaning, efficiencies of haptic assimilation of content and physical persistence or default preservation and reliable reaccess.
Niceties of leaf attachment and board transmission are usually unobserved, but overall structural behavior can be more apparent to the reader. The reader's experience of a book is paced across time and the tactile behavior of the codex accompanies all the processes of assimilation and comprehension of content. Haptic efficiencies of codex navigation both linear and reflexive, codex response to manipulation, ready portability and inter-shelvability, and physical codex transmission across time and cultures, all provide exclusive advantages.
The basis of tactile investigation prompting assimilation of concepts is deeply embedded from evolutionary experience. Primate dexterity and distinctive right and left handed manipulation prompted both neurology and evolutionary advance of the brain. Conceptualizations were prompted by tactile investigations and arms leveraged actions. This learning path of the hands prompting the mind is exemplified by the codex book. Later cultural traits of personal possession of objects including actions of portability and display are well reflected by the codex. And book possession can also be shared across time and culture indicating the codex capacity for persistent existence and library accumulation and archiving. Conveying concepts in physical objects is not a paradox, but an embedded mechanism of learning.
The functionality of the codex must also be reviewed in context of inter-functionalities. Here print simulation on screen is fulfilling the role of bibliographic utility. Computer assisted key word searching, currency mediated reference works and hyper-textuality as well as digital technologies of connectivity all enable screen presentation of books to act as discovery tools. As such they expedite print based research and continuing print presentation.