Amazon just came out with a new tablet, on which you can read books and also do slightly fancier things, so it’s being called a possible competitor for the iPad. It’s not just a Kindle—it’s a Kindle Fire.
I don’t have an e-book reader per se (though when I am abroad—or too tired to get up—I read books on my iPod Touch), but I have been thinking about e-books and the changing world of reading and writing.
Having worked for an editing service that deals in digital content (Edit Owl—go team!), I was pretty excited when Yahoo! came out with a style guide last year (The Yahoo! Style Guide), not because it’s right about everything, but because someone had finally begun to address, in a single volume, the standards and conventions involved in preparing text for the Internet.
This got me thinking about style guides in general, and how they’ve had to adapt for new ways of writing and citing sources. Then I got into a publishing program in which I could spend legitimate amounts of time thinking about this stuff, and I’ve now written my first short paper for my PUB 802 course. Read it if you like: “Staying in Style: How Style Guides are Adapting for the Digital Age”. (If you make it all the way to the end, I will give you a high-five. And do feel free to comment on it.)
Reading is Changing, Brains are Changing: A Chicken/Egg Situation?
Here is a scrap from the cutting-room floor of my essay-editing head space, about how reading and writing are changing but not changing (I cut this part because my paper was getting too long, and this section had nothing directly to do with style guides):
We are certainly still reading and writing, but we are admittedly reading and writing differently than we did in the last century—even in the last generation. Those who grew up using the Internet—the “digital natives” (Prensky)—have different brains. As Don Tapscott writes, in his book Grown Up Digital,
Evidence is mounting that [members of the Net Generation—those who have “grown up digital”] process information and behave differently because they have indeed developed brains that are functionally different than those of their parents. […] There are two critical periods of brain development during which our brains get wired and developed. The first is early childhood, say from birth to three years old. It’s likely that Net Geners got more stimulation during this period than did their boomer parents. … The second critical period of brain development occurs roughly during the adolescent and teenage years. During that period the boomers as kids were watching a lot of television…. Contrast this with Net Geners, who spend an equivalent amount of time as active users of media rather than as passive viewers. (Tapscott, 29–30)
Consider the children who read Dr. Seuss in print and on their parents’ iPads (I’m referring to an anecdote shared by Haig Armen, an interaction designer at LiFT Studios); the forms differ from one another (the child either turns paper pages or swipes through electronic pages), but the book is the same (the child will choose that Dr. Seuss book, in either form, over other bedtime stories) (Armen). These children still want to read stories, as we did, and they may one day want to write them—and write them well.
You know what they say: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”
Also, take this extract as a recommendation to read Tapscott’s book, Grown Up Digital. It was captivating in spite of all the statistics, and I truly appreciated its optimism.
[I am including these not because you care but because I spent time formatting them according to MLA citation guidelines and didn’t want to destroy them utterly.]
Armen, Haig. Publishing in the Post-Digital Age. Simon Fraser University. SFU at Harbour Centre, 515 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, BC. 23 September 2011. Guest Lecture.
Prensky, Marc. “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants – Part 1.” 2001. <http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/> PDF.
Tapscott, Don. Grown Up Digital. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2009. Print.