The Digital Reader Series

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

This blog is ostensibly about books and their transition to the digital world, and if the path that the music, film, and journalism industries are following in their own transitions there will be plenty of fodder to blog about for quite some time. The inside baseball on self-publishing, agency models, gadget features, and software updates is interesting, but it's not what makes me want to keep writing about this topic. Instead, it's the fundamental changes happening in the way we consume written words, whether that's on a printed page, through a web browser, on a smart phone, or some other specialized e-book device.

I read a lot of news about the publishing industry every day, and so much of it is focused on the business end of things, and what these changes mean for livelihoods of publishers and writers. There's a place for that, sure. Someone has to figure out how to make a living with the written word (please email me when you do). But far too little attention is paid to the experience of the reader outside of the various merits of the Kindle's screen vs. and iPad. Reading in the digital world is about more than whether you can read by the pool with an expensive piece of electronics or not. It's about having access to the writing that really means something to you, writing that makes you want to sit down and write something yourself, no matter where it was published.

I'm not quite a "digital native" who has been online his entire life. I had a computer in high school but it didn't go online, and I didn't get my first email address until college. But after that relatively late start by today's standards I haven't looked back, and I've spent the vast majority of my intellectual energy since then staring at some sort of glowing screen, reading and writing text. So over the next few weeks, I'm going to write some posts about how the internet has changed the way I read, from books to news to blogs and Twitter. It's a little self-indulgent, but then so is writing a blog (or writing anything, for that matter). I figure writing about my routine, from finding the good stuff to actually sitting down and enjoying it, might be instructive to the type of person who reads a literary journal's blog. And if not, you can just skip it. That's part of it too.

My plan is to break down my daily routine into the three major inputs to my reading queue: news, blogs, and other periodicals; social media like Twitter and Facebook; and of course books. I'll focus on the technical tools and devices at a high level, but I'll try not to get too geeky about it. To me it's more about the approach to using these tools than their particular technical merits. Then I'll wrap it all up with a love poem to one tool that makes it all possible. Hopefully in the process I won't bore you all to tears.