December 13, 2011
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Patting The Bunny

Txchnologist writer Matthew van Dusen interviews Anne Mangen. He asks “How Will E-Reading Change Us?“ But of course we aren’t asking about us, we’re wringing our hands over how e-reading will change Kids Today, tomorrow.

Discussing the "touch and feel" aspects of reading – the “tangible materiality” of print:

Txch: Is it more important for a beginning reader to have haptic experience than a mature adult?

AM: An interesting and intriguing question; but I do not know the answer. It is, however, well known that haptic exploration is of paramount importance to the cognitive and emotional development of infants and children.

This explains why so much contemporary literature stems from Pat The Bunny .

Gedanken experiment: imagine something that does not exist but that you would really, really like to read. Go wild. Knuth’s volume 4. Harry Potter, volume 8. Sappho’s Sixteen Sexy Sonnets. Jane Austen’s lost sequel to Pride and Prejudice. The second volume of sonnets that Shakespeare dedicated my "My Kit".

Now, suppose I can give you a copy. But it’s a really, really bad copy. It’s beat up. The cover is torn. The binding is defective. Someone has scribbled on the margins. Someone else has highlighted, badly. Entire pages have been erased so you can barely read the script . Someone dropped it in the bathtub and it's still a little soggy.

Are you going to shrug and say, “Oh well, never mind. I think I’ll look at Sports Illustrated instead?” Is that going to make any difference to you?

So, how much difference will it make if you read it on an iPad or a Kindle or a stack of 8x10 color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one?

This entire discussion of ebooks occurs at the margins, the small change of literary experience. Terence, this is stupid stuff.