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January 28, 2009

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This is great: a librarian identifies curiously common references to “cuddling” in newspaper discussions of print and electronic books. As in, nobody is ever going to use an e-book reader because you can’t “cuddle” (up with) it.

Preferably, it appears, by a fire. Because apparently everybody’s got a fireplace that they read in front of, and without a proper fire, chair, smoking jacket, and appropriate analog print media, there’s no reason to spend hard money on a book, magazine, or newspaper.

My favorite rejoinder is the one outlier: “Forget about the warmth a real book offers when you cuddle up with it by the fire. People spend so much time on buses and planes, in boring meetings, or at kids’ soccer practices or hockey games.”

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about sites of reading and the different physical relationships to text they require. It’s fascinating how particular sites and ways of reading crowd out others — often to make a new activity seem MUCH more new than it really is.

Posted January 28, 2009 at 12:53 | Comments (5) | Permasnark
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Briefly Noted, Object Culture


I've always been fascinated by the moods that digital vs. physical texts evoke. I think mood could be incorporated as a third component to the relationship you mention in the last paragraph. Can mood decide the physical environment we choose to read in? And will digital texts now diversify the choices our mood presents us?

Definitely, although I'd put it a little differently, mostly because I don't always think the print/digital dichotomy is the most important one.

Robin mentioned a dozen or so posts back that the iPhone allows for a certain kind of absorption into the material that the web browser doesn't; it's an experience similar to that of the book, but also to video games, maybe cinema, etc.

Whereas the web browser is more like flipping channels on the television or reading advertisements plastered together on a city street or bulletin board; the fundamental mood is one of distraction, as you're focusing briefly on some material, tuning other stuff out, and quickly switching back and forth.

This isn't the full range of what we think of as "mood," but it does suggest a real interplay between material forms, bodily posture, social context, and subjective attitude.

"Sure, those Holo-Book Reticulators are nice but, you can't crouch in front of 'em, you know?"

(Saying this as I sit in that most familiar laptop posture -- on a bed, shoulders hunched up, wrists curved over, the screen's glow lighting up the room.)

For the record, I'll echo the last commenter in the linked thread: I cuddle up with my Kindle all the time. Just this morning, in fact, under the covers. Single-handed page-turning makes for Book-cuddling 2.0.

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