Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Thursday, October 14, 2010

and while I'm being grumpy

Let’s fact-check our meditations on the past and future of reading, okay?

No one knows where all this will end up, but it will be nowhere near as revolutionary as the change from reading scrolls to reading books in the middle ages. The e-reader revolution merely lures the same people to read books in a different format. The move from scrolls to books turned an immobile activity enjoyed by a tiny minority of educated people into a mobile phenomenon that would eventually be enjoyed by all. The unanswered question remains: who will control this revolution in knowledge, them or us? The answer, literally and metaphorically, is in our hands.

Christians had fully embraced the codex and abandoned the scroll by the end of the second century A.D. (Pagans and Jews would follow soon thereafter.) This is why virtually all surviving Christian literature is in codex form. The scroll disappeared long before the Roman Empire did.

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