Digital texts and I

I guess I’ve never given digital texts much thought in the past.  Unlike some, I’m not overly attached to the book form and “the smell of the pages,” etc., although I am slightly obsessive-compulsive about taking care of the books I own.  I have and use a Kindle, and I know from experience that I love my Kindle when I’m reading books for personal enjoyment but find it to be less useful in terms of course texts and literary analysis (for, I think, some obvious reasons, especially the issue of page numbers).  However this weeks’ readings, most specifically Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s Planned Obsolescence, caused me to actually think about how I feel about digital texts and digital publishing, not only because this is the topic of the book, but also because of the format I was reading it in (via Media Commons Press).  And I was a little surprised, upon reflection, to find out how conservative I really am in regards to digital texts and publishing.

Regarding the format of Planned Obsolescence, I was at first really impressed and excited by the setup of Media Commons Press.  I found it easy to navigate and I really enjoyed being able to read people’s comments and Fitzpatrick’s responses to them as I was reading the text.  The comments, especially, were both useful and fascinating; it was interesting to be able to read people’s responses to parts of the argument, enlightening to learn Fitzpatrick’s intended revisions, and therefore helpful to see her work-in-progress.  But as I continued reading, I started having more issues with reading a digital text.  I became oddly frustrated with the constant need to scroll down the page, as well as with the inconsistent lengths of the pages.  I also had a lot of issues with eye-strain, because unlike with my Kindle, I find it uncomfortable to read anything of length on a computer screen.  I also became frustrated with my inability to make personal annotations so that I could refer back to the parts of the text that I found particularly significant.  I actually started wishing I had a book copy of the text, so that by the end of the book, I could not quite agree with Fitzpatrick’s assertion that digital publishing is a solution to the academic publishing crisis, because I would not want to read these digital publications.

Furthermore, I realized, especially in the discussion of NINES, that I really don’t take advantage of the digital resources available to me.  I make use of Google Books to access texts that are otherwise unavailable, but would much prefer even waiting for an ILL loan request to go through than make use of a digital text.  On the other hand, I love accessing articles digitally through online databases (although I do tend to then print the articles).  I think part of my reluctance stems from my uncertainty concerning how to appropriately make use of such resources.  This became especially true as I struggled to understand what Fitzpatrick was discussing in terms of “remixing” and “digital curation”–I am apparently not tech-savvy.

However, all that being said, I can appreciate the solution she is offering to the academic publishing crisis.  And in light of my realization of my conservative views concerning digital resources, I’m going to try to expand my digital horizons in the future.

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3 thoughts on “Digital texts and I

  1. I have to admit that my use of the Kindle was spurred in large part by its mimicry of print pages. Ultimately I still prefer print-on-paper. I’m sorry to admit that in disregard of the MediaCommons publication, I purchased “Planned Obsolescence” for my Kindle so as to avoid the headache and eye strain of an illuminated screen. Pretentious? Absolutely. I suppose the greater question is not whether we prefer to read in this format, but if we feel as comfortable publishing in this format? The potentially limitless nature of our projects is both daunting and exciting.

    • But isn’t the question of whether or not we want to read in this format equally important? Otherwise, what is the point of publishing digitally if nobody wants to read our digital publications?

      • Shandi, I think you’re right to raise this question. I also found reading it online awkward, although it got better when I found the “advance one page” button at the top of the screen. There are some weaknesses of the user-interface with the Media Commons Press presentation. Fitzgerald mentions problems that her students have with hypertext.

        I think part of the problem is that we are still experimenting with how best to work in a digital environment.

        Vinny, you mention that you prefer the Kindle because it approaches your even more preferred technology of text-on-paper. Since print-on-paper actually works quite well for many things and is a fairly mature technology, it’s interesting to think about why and how it works so well. You have good reasons (avoiding headache and eyestrain) for the choice that you made. We’re having to be more conscious about what the tradeoffs are in this kind of decision: price, portability, up-to-dateness, legibility, etc.

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