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.
The whole position of the book as a medium of communication in modern industrial society is being challenged and even conventional ways of producing conventional books may be completely altered by new means of composition and what is now called ‘on-demand publishing’ whereby individual copies of books may only be fabricated as a need for them arises. The importance of technological developments in the media of communication cannot be ignored and the role of the book in modern society undoubtedly will be changed by new technology.
Yet, when one looks around the world and recognises that many countries are still only at an early stage in working towards total literacy, the role of the book becomes even more confusing. Some developing societies, especially in, for example, Africa and Asia, are still moving towards the use of the book, whereas others, especially in Europe and America, are wondering if they are moving beyond it. The ability to read is, of course, so obvious int he use of the book that those of us who live in advanced societies sometimes tend to overlook not only the widespread illiteracy in many countries of the world but also the relatively recent development of what we like to think of as ‘literature societies’ and the non-use of literacy skills by many people in these societies.
– Peter Mann, From Author to Reader: A Social Study of Books (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982), pp. 2-3.