My first ereaders were Palm Pilot handheld devices in the mid 1990s, on which I read such authors as Shakespeare and Mark Twain, despite their crude screens, the earliest of which was green, about 3″ x 4″.
So I was thrilled when I stumbled on the Sony 505 ereader at the Ann Arbor Borders Bookstore in 2007. I immediately recognized it as a significant upgrade in technology and a new home for my roughly thousand or more ebooks I had already downloaded from Gutenberg.org and elsewhere. Though I read many books and articles on it, the Sony 505 had lots of defects. It was slow, crashed a lot, and basically had no support from the manufacturer.
In May of 2011 I bought an Aluratech LIBRE Touch eBook Reader, with WiFi and a 7 inch TouchScreen. It was many generations of upgrading from the Sony 505, and I enjoyed it for a while, but then the fact that Aluratech never upgraded the software from Android 1.5 really degraded the experience. I plan to keep it, but it doesn’t handle PDFs efficiently enough, leading to frustrating delays and repetitions when resetting the size, requiring tedious moments of waiting while the processor crunches the numbers…. Still, the 7 inch screen and overall size and weight makes for very pleasant reading, especially of ePubs, which don’t have the problems of PDFs.
I held off buying a conventional tablet, such as the iPad, which to me is huge and clunky. I had had a Netbook for years, and the size of the various tablets were all too big to attract me. I felt I was duplicating what I already had, but without a keyboard.
Since I’ve had a Google Nexus S cellphone since late 2010, I immediately had an interest in the Nexus 7, upon good advice that it was coming out in late June. I bought one a few days after Google starting selling them online on June 27. Now that I’ve used Google’s Nexus 7 Tablet for nearly a month, I’m amazed at what an incredible advance it represents over the other ereaders I’ve had. It doesn’t matter to me that it doesn’t have a phone or camera capability. Of course, it’s more than an ereader, but that’s the primary purpose for which I bought one. That it has wireless and runs video exceptionally well are added advantages, as is its ability to handle email and surf the web. The enormous number of Android apps extend the device almost endlessly. The five built-in processors allow for instantaneous and efficient resizing of PDFs.
With the 16 gigabyte model, I copied my now roughly 5,000 ebooks and another 5,000 articles on to it with several gigabytes to spare, enough to probably more than double the number of books. A very seamless transition to a better and happier reading experience. The Android version is the current and most advanced, with free updates from Google, that support using the Kindle, Barnes and Noble, and the Kobo apps on it for expanded reading options, along with all the others. Google Books has built-in availability for many more millions of books.
For people with serious literary and cultural interests, Google’s Nexus 7 Tablet might be the one to consider if you have been holding off getting an ereading device.
I am highly conscious that Google Books made my discovery of Milton’s “Of True Religion” possible. Without Google’s digitizing much of the intellectual heritage of humanity, now available from anywhere on earth, I would never have found this piece by Milton, since modern scholarly editors thought they knew better than Milton what was worth writing and reading. I feel, therefore, it is incumbent on me to give credit where credit is due. Literary, intellectual study and scholarship have and will continue to benefit from what is clearly a Post-Gutenberg Revolution. As a writer and poet, I am constantly now, even for years, finding one thing after another impacted by the exponential transformation in the availability of knowledge and information, the most nuanced, substantive dimensions of literary and aesthetic study, classic works, books, and publications. The world has truly entered into a new age, properly called the Post-Gutenberg Age.
Less recognized is the fact that the requisite spiritual vision appropriate to sustaining it is evolving, has evolved, and is manifesting itself in lived experience. In time, the world too will increasingly awaken to that transformative recognition.
Almost all of the books and articles mentioned in my essay on Tolstoy, and many unmentioned, were read in ePub and PDF editions from Google Books or elsewhere online. I was often struck by the fact that I could obtain obscure works on Tolstoy that few libraries even have copies of today, including excellent early biographies, such as Alymer Maud’s two volume work, and many other books and translations. With the click of the mouse, I found myself reading some pieces that I haven’t read in thirty-five years, previously available only through a university library. It’s shocking that there are still some people who seem to think that’s not good for literature and culture . They seriously lag behind in understanding the Post-Gutenberg Age.
Original publication in ebooks will only assure that every book may very well become a lasting part of the intellectual and cultural heritage of humanity, or at least never go out of print.
Corporate and putatively literary publishing do not constitute some kind of privileged system or means for identifying and promoting the “best” writers; in fact, they are self-serving, commercial enterprises that shore up both the nihilistic vision of life that has become endemic during the last 150 years and the monetary bottom-lines based on such received wisdom.
Little beyond the most predictable, secular, despairing visions of life that have made up the cliched canned goods of modernity can be found coming from most of the publishing industry today.
I stopped looking to them, and the so-called literary magazines, for anything worthwhile in the early 1990s, went into my study, and closed the door. I believe it’s the best thing I could ever have done.
I would argue that the publishing industry intentionally cultivates the notion that they alone are NOT self-interested, a complete falsehood, especially when one realizes they’re taking 88% or more of the profit from the sale of a book! They have no special right to it. Only writers who are gullible fools would give it to them in this age when it is now so easy for authors to reach readers directly by themselves.
It’s not merely a matter of money for writers. It’s also about the freedom of ideas and communication, censorship, who receives a hearing and who doesn’t, the free exchange of ideas. The gatekeepers imagine they know who and what and how society should be influenced and shaped, but, in reality, the cynical, decadent publishing industry, along with the university, has destroyed culture, literature, and poetry, marginalized it by driving it ever further from life, into the pathetic games of deconstruction, “language,” and so on.
One part of the Post-Gutenberg Age is that it has provided the technological means to reach, develop, cultivate an entirely new stage of human civilization, purpose, and meaning. The pathetic executives of publishing corporations aren’t even remotely interested in exploring anything substantively challenging to the received bottom-line they inherited… figuratively and literally.
The real shift in culture I’m arguing for isn’t about me. It’s about life outside my head… that is what would constitute an aesthetic revolution today. The Internet, eBooks, and social networks make that a distinct possibility.
The publishing industry has been downhill for decades. Jason Epstein is an enlightening source in that regard. eBooks already constitute, by objective industry account, 5 to 8% of all book sales. Within a few years, at present growth, it will be over 50% of ALL BOOKS SOLD. The “big publishers” will only have left about 25% of printed book sales, so “big” isn’t a word they’re going to be hanging on to.
Many publishers are delusional about the value they bring to the art. Nada… The self-serving justifications of the NY publishers and their ilk are pathetic and laughable. They should be worrying about ebooks because they indeed do spell “the end” for many of them.
Faber, Carcanet, New Directions, et al… Add in all of the major magazines and journals… Every one of them dedicated to a small, narrow, exhausted vision of life and poetry… All they guarantee is that there will be NOTHING unexpected in their pages. That’s a major part of the reason why the art and the academy have lost the community. They’re no different from the community… The arguments defending publishers are all the usual, tiresome ones, cliches. Speaking about them as ideas, they’re weak ideas in the extreme. It’s painful letting go of icons that become senile and sully themselves…
Banding together into coteries is ALWAYS a sign in literary history of exhaustion, imaginative, spiritual, literary exhauuuussstion… That’s what much of the problem is with the art. eBooks and eReading offer a way to go around the decadent and worthless way in which the art has been manipulated and controlled for decades, often by publishers and the self-appointed cliques. It’s a tremendously exciting sign of HOPE for the future.
A book or poem is something other than the way it is printed, cuneiform tablet, papyrus, vellum, etc. Poetry and writing are ideas, consciousness codified, constituting the true Platonic Book.
Codex or scroll, poets today can have either… It’s merely a matter of *coding.* Aren’t there already remedial html workshops for poets springing up all over the country? Now there’s an idea that probably somebody could definitely cash in on…
The middlemen have changed, as have the incentives that drive them. Many are, and have clearly been, catering to transferring the vanity press business to POD and ebooks. Others are seriously OPEN to new relationships with writers… So, publishing, ePublishing and otherwise, has become a complex picture, as life is, but has definitely emerged into a Post-Gutenberg Age… leaving many behind.
Every age has its Luddities. There are plenty of eLuddites about, moaning and groaning, while time passes them by. I believe many writers of the past would have welcomed the sheer opportunity and excitement of ebooks and seized the day…
Any writer or poet can now SURF across the lake and sell his or her books in the UK and almost anywhere else on the planet. Kobo Books
Any writer who can use a word processor ought to be able to create an ePub ebook, all of which will only become easier and easier…. Poets hawked their broadsides in the streets of London… There isn’t any reason why they shouldn’t on the information highway…
Poets need to get their heads out of the electronic sand on ebooks… before the entire younger generation is lost to the art.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve now read books on a digital device for over a decade. I started with the original Palm PDA, the green one, a piece of ancient technology. I then progressed up the scale with two subsequent Palms and now have the Sony Reader PRS-5o5, which seems to me an incredible leap forward.
I’ve read everything on one device or another, including the following books, or large sections of them: Shakespeare’s King Lear, Macbeth, Chaucer, Cicero, Milton, numerous writings of Martin Luther, Joel Barlow, Philip Freneau, Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus, and over the years more than I can immediately remember. Most recently, I’ve read D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature, a book I always wanted to get around to reading, though he was never one of my literary heroes: “It is hard to hear a new voice… We just don’t listen.”
I think something like that has happened with eReaders, as it has with literature and poetry, but it’s changing as the technology has improved. The Kindle didn’t appeal to me given the required uploading of one’s own documents, and downloading them back to the device. I chose the Sony Reader because I believe it’s more flexible. I have an existing library of over a thousand books from Gutenberg.org and all over the Net, including some I’ve scanned myself. I wanted more control over my library than I ultimately felt the Kindle and other eReaders would allow me.
Sony’s software, though, has problems that get in the way of the experience of reading, requiring far too much tinkering around to copy files already sorted on one’s hard drive into “collections.” They’ve been criticized too, perhaps justly, for trying to corner the market in their own way. I think Sony has a chance of beating the Kindle and other devices, if it allows readers to hear the voices, some new, of the writers they want, not just those on its propriatary bookstore site, and develops a better software package to support the eReading experience. Only one or two updates during the last few years just isn’t enough support for serious improvement to take place. Sony needs to listen to and to hear its users if it’s ever really going to improve, and not just the technically inclined, but those who are serious readers of real literature, not the predominantly popular schlock they’re pushing on their elibrary bookstore.
Or Sony’s Reader will go, I suppose, the way of the US car industry… another company will figure it out.
ANN ARBOR—On September 22, 29, and October 6, the theatre company, Apollo’s Troupe, will stage the theater adaptation of the poem, The Parliament of Poets, written by Michigan poet Frederick Glaysher and published in 2012 by Earthrise Press. Continue reading →