A few things have been pushing my thinking even more about reading and writing in digital environments, and I thought I’d throw some kind of random thoughts together here mostly to capture them but also to see where writing about them takes me. So apologies in advance for the thin threads and varied directions this may go in.
First, let me say I love my iPad…as a reading tool. I’ve been telling people that when the new OS comes out here in the next couple of weeks, my “grade” for it will go from a B- to a B+ just for the mere ability to multitask through many open programs, which is the major frustration I find with the device right now. I hate having to close one app down in order to open another up because it’s just so different from the usually six or eight programs and 30+ tabs I have running at any given moment on my MBP. But having said that, I absolutely love reading on the iPad. It’s light, it’s thin, it glows. Yeah…I’m having a moment…
To that end, I seriously don’t know if there’s a more useful app than Instapaper. Now, when I’m working on my laptop and my network floats up some interesting piece to read, I just “read-later” it in my browser and the article, stripped of all the ads and extraneous junk on the page, syncs right into my iPad for later, leisurely, comfortable consumption. And…for somewhat comfortable creation. (Btw, here is the RSS feed for my Instapaper saves if you want it.) With a little work, I can share out those pieces to Twitter, capture chunks on Evernote, save them to my Delicious account, all of which will get oh so much easier when the OS updates. But there is no question thatÂ reading no longer just means consuming. It’s all about pulling out the most salient, relevant pieces and doing something with them that potentially makes other people more knowledgeable as well.
Second, there has been a great series of posts on my new favorite blog at the Neiman Journalism Lab (Harvard) regarding the use of links:
Why does the BBC want to send its readers away? The value of linking
Why link out? Four journalistic purposes of the noble hyperlink
Making connections: How major news organizations talk about links
Now I know most of these have a journalistic bent, but I think they have relevance for any of us who write in this linked world, whether it’s blogs or Twitter or whatever. In fact, I might argue that conversations such as these should be happening in fourth and fifth grade as we begin to help our students understand the value of public writing. I mean it might just be me, but I would love my kids to have an understanding of the value of links in writing in terms of how they can be used in storytelling, in keeping the audience informed, in enabling transparency and their value as a “currency of collaboration.” Isn’t that an inherent part of the online writing interaction that we should be teaching?
Third, back to the iPad for a sec. I love the fact that this morning, Clay Shirky’s new book Cognitive Surplus landed in my Kindle app, ready for me to read. I just finished Switch (highly recommended) and now I have two abridged, annotated, digitally marked up versions of recent books in Evernote that are fully searchable and remixable and sharable (within limits, of course.) I’m becoming more convinced that I’ll never buy another paper book again if it has a Kindle version.
And finally, I bought the Wired Magazine app for the iPad on Monday ($4.99) and it’s, um, pretty darn cool. It’s also another small step in the way we read; embedded videos and audio, amazing graphics, interactive buttons to push. I found it much more engaging to read…that participation thing again. Not that it’s the reinvention of print, but I would have loved to been in some of the brainstorming and idea sessions when they created the interface. It is beautiful and functional. And soon, according to the developers, it’s going to get more social as well, more opportunities to do “connective reading.” Not saying I’m going to subscribe to Wired this way, but when textbooks are made for the iPad in this format…could be very interesting.
I know most people shudder when I say this, but I’m more than ok with letting go of the paper reading world at this point. I’m much more interested in exploring these digital spaces, their opportunities and their drawbacks (as Nicholas Carr has been espousing of late) than watching my paper books grow dust on the bookshelves.