What is it that makes us want to express everything in terms of polar opposites? Why do we love either/or, when most things actually turn out to be both/and? In reality new technologies do replace old ones, but not completely. Now we have to suffer under an onslaught of think-pieces warning us that the Internet marks the end of reading.

Well, this is obviously nonsense. Quite the opposite really — kids spend hours reading and writing stuff to and from one another. Most of it may tend towards the idle chatter end of the scale but discussion of books is far from absent. The Horn Book carries a brief discussion of this by Christina Hobbs, who comments “I see my own students making fan art for their favorite books using quotes and visual art, and then that work gets passed around Tumblr as fans find one another and build communities. I see kids making book trailers and talking about their favorite books ad nauseam on a variety of platforms. And, I confess to being a true and longtime follower of Nerdfighteria, a community that began with YouTube that now comes together around John Green and his brother Hank Green, to talk books and science and soccer and charity and all around love of learning.”

There are still people who think reading on a cell phone doesn’t really count as reading, and view those who do it as slightly insane. But it does have its advantages: Sarah Boxer writes in The Atlantic about her experience reading Proust on a cell phone.

Although Proust knew exactly where he was heading when he put together his masterwork—he began with the first and last parts, then turned to the middle—the same cannot be said for his readers, no matter how they tackle his text. They are at sea. This is what makes reading the novel such hard going, particularly in the middle. It is also what makes the experience extraordinary.                                                           Knowing where you are, physically, in a bound book keeps you from feeling this oceanic feeling quite so much. It keeps you grounded. But reading the book on your cellphone emphasizes your own smallness, your at-sea-ness, in relation to the vast ocean. There you are, moving along without any compass. How brave you are in your little dinghy, adrift and amazed.

This seems to me absolutely right. In one way what discourages you in a very long book is the constant reproach delivered by the thousands of pages which you can see you’ve still not read: the e-reader walks right past that.

Of course long books are not the only thing getting read on phones. Writing specifically for the smartphone is gaining traction. For example the Twitter hashtag #poetry features discussion, reaction and new and quoted poetry. The character number restriction can be avoided by taking a photo of your longer work, and tweeting that. Mira Gonzalez published a poetry book called Selected Tweets. The Guardian’s Bookmarks has a story which features her work. There is of course a hashtag #twitterfiction where people write 140 character stories with more or less success. I know that R. L. Stone has done a story in tweets, but I can’t really imagine that the results are superior to a proper book. Different, yes; better? — well we probably don’t have the right to ask for that. But different is fine enough. And who can say a work of genius will never turn up on Twitter?

Looking to the Future of Narrative another of Joe Esposito’s posts at The Scholarly Kitchen discusses innovation spurred by digital media. The thing so many commentators seem to forget is that innovation like this has to come from the authors. Publishers can be more or less receptive to such work, but are not going to be the initiators. Publishers are there to connect authors tor readers, and they will only do so if they can see a profit in the linkage. This is not because publishers are greedy bastards, folks, it’s just how business works.

For an extensive examination of this whole area go to Writing in the age of the web: This is not a book. (Link via The Digital Reader.)

I also flogged this poor old horse (despite the success of the internal combustion engine we still have a few of them around) at Death of reading? Give us a break!