what makes a book

What makes a book is its binding.  The binding implies a linear order of text and turning pages.[1]  A book is a slow, regular, rhythm of new textual images that plays out a story. A book is a filmic projection of text, run in slow motion.

Turning pages isn’t the same as scrolling.  Scrolling is an undressing.  Scrolling is a gradual revelation of a form behind the text.

Book paging is likely to remain an important form in electronic works.  Web pages usually are not book pages, because web pages do not have a fixed frame.  They often have different sizes and require scrolling. The movement from web page to web page is typically ad hoc.  E-readers for electronic books, in contrast, support book paging.  This paging will give books enduring meaning in electronic media.

A bound order of book pages is likely to remain an important form in electronic works.  A beginning and an end characterizes human lifetime.  A narrative arc makes a story memorable and shareable.  Electronic works make possible forms that incorporate user choices and random effects, e.g. virtual worlds and games.  Such works, while popular, will not replace within electronic media a bound order of book pages.[2]

Reference books will cease to exist in electronic media.  Codices allowed more efficient random access than did scrolls.  Electronic databases allow more efficient random access than do codices.  Where random access is the primary attribute of use, books have no meaningful electronic future.

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[1]  In an unpublished MLA presentation in December, 2006, Peter Stallybrass asserted that the book binder makes a book.  For discussion and related thoughts, see Kathleen Fitzpatrick (2007), “CommentPress: New (Social) Structures for New (Networked) Texts,” Journal of Electronic Publishing, v. 10, n. 3, DOI: 10.3998/3336451.0010.305

[2] While the electronic future of a bound order of book pages seems secure, traditional book publishers face a difficult future.

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