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Dr Alistair Brown | Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

My First E-Book

Friday, November 30, 2007

I have just read my first e-book! Ho, I'm not an English Literature luddite who believes that literature refers to the medium - paper - rather than the message; I use JSTOR, Muse and Literature Online virtually every day to read electronic journal articles. But I find that a 20 page journal just about pushes the limits of my attention, before I tab to Facebook, and my eyes, since the screen is a fundamentally unfriendly medium. However, forced by my unerring procrastination to come up at short notice with a conference paper proposal relating to a book I had not actually yet read, I found myself taking a jaunt to Google Books and reading all 280 pages of The War of the Worlds in a couple of days.

Actually, Google Books is not so hard on the eyes, as the fonts are rendered very clearly, on an uncluttered screen. However, the fundamental problem I have is this. Just as physical maps allow one to see all the elements in relation to each other, whilst digital maps provide a far smaller geographical overview, I feel lost in the thicket words of the digital text. The physical book allows me to know instinctively where things are, through a haptic union of mind and body: in this most disembodied of mediums which takes your mind to other worlds whilst your body stays still, the sense of touch and the situatedness of the book in space remains vital. I remember a passage of interest occurred when my fingers and thumb were millimetres apart holding the early pages of the book; that passage from the middle springs to mind, because I lost it when the pages sprung together again as I tried to hold the book open on the table; the most of the book behind me, a mere translucent page tantalisingly left to turn, my pace of reading quickens to a frenzy as I know I'm close to the conclusion.

The physicality of my digits as I hold the printed page tells me something unconsciously, spiritually, that I cannot receive through the transient and ephemeral ghosts of digitality. Amazon's new e-book reader, Kindle, may have sold out overnight; but such electronic readers have been around for a couple of decades now, and there is a reason why they have not caught on that has nothing to do with their technological limitations.

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Posted by Alistair at 2:20 pm


Blogger Shane said...

I agree that it's easy to feel a bit lost when reading an e-book. I use Project Gutenberg regularly to read cheap titles that are out of copyright - I find the only way I can read e-books is when they're in .txt format. I usually delete blocks of text as I go along - otherwise I feel the weight of the digital text above my cursor!

5:19 pm  

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