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A Digital Archive of One's Own - 04/18/2013

The January 2013 issue of PMLA (the journal of the Modern Language Association) includes several articles about new reading technologies, mainly e-books and audiobooks. Contrary to what one might stereotypically expect from English professors, these authors don’t pronounce stuffily conservative messages viewing the new technology with alarm, but deliver some refreshing and provocative insights. I was particularly interested in “Reading, in a Digital Archive of One’s Own,” by Jim Collins, obviously an allusion to Virginia Wolfe’s “A Room of One’s Own.” (I’m still waiting for that room of my own as well as the guaranteed annual income Wolfe says every woman writer needs. Does Social Security count?) Collins mentions the view-with-alarm commentators who worry about “the future of reading” and points out that what they’re talking about is a specific kind of reading, what they consider real reading—as opposed to whatever people do with e-books. Reading, says Collins, “is no longer a uniquely solitary practice—it is alternately solitary and social.” He seems to be thinking partly of sites such as Goodreads, which another article in this issue discusses in depth. Some passages that especially struck me: “If Bradbury’s firemen did suddenly turn up to do their evil work, they would be thrown into existential panic about what to burn since so many ‘book people’ are reading novels on their screen of choice. . . . but the discourse on e-books has ...

A Digital Archive of One's Own

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