Sunday Book-Thought 144

Different eras, these changes suggest, don’t just produce different kinds of books. Each also generates new ways of treating books – more specifically, new assumptions about what aspects of these physical objects deserve readers’ attention. When my students notice how different an eighteenth-century sermon collection looks from a twentieth-century airport paperback, the difference between a laminated chemistry textbook and the electronic version on their laptop begins to look less unprecedented. In the other direction, though, they begin to see that electronic technologies are in fact creating something radically new. Digital tools may not be upending our reading practices any more drastically than changing forms of print did. What they are revolutionizing is our ideasĀ about reading. In the process, they’re remaking the printed past.
Leah Price, What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading (New York: Basic Books, 2019), p. 33.


Sunday Book-Thought 141

I asked in the first sentence of this chapter what happens to the act of reading when your novel knows where you are standing while you read it. And so there is another kind of answer that comes into view: reading produces new kinds of traces. The Silent History produces entirely new data about readers’ behavior. We can watch the reader as she moves through the novel – it is possible for Horowitz and Quinn to know how far each reader has read in the story, for instances, and how fast they read it, and on what day; readers’ imaginative responses, in the form of those field reports, are gathered and selectively added to the novel itself; Horowitz and Quinn know when and how often field reports are accessed. If they wanted to they could determine exactly when a reader stopped reading and where they were in the novel.
Amy Hungerford, Making Literature Now (Stanford: Sanford University Press, 2016), p. 111.