PRESENTATION: Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers

June 24th, 2014 Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers

Abstract: As readers have migrated to eBooks and similar digital forms, there has been a transformation in the manner in which they leave marks on books. With this shift, there has been a movement from the widespread ability to find evidence of individual readers towards an aggregation of this information as a monolithic entity often described as “big data,” offering little discrimination between various people. The Kindle contains a database of several million individual highlights that cannot be analysed in great detail on the individual level, but rather on a global, where all nuances and reasonable analysis become vaguer.

One way in which we can trace the reader in these new forms is by instead looking at the collective markings of a single book. Surprisingly, the most popular book to annotate is the The New Oxford American Dictionary, which has been pre-installed on all the devices sold on the US. Over 1000 people have left annotations on the dictionary, but in an atypical way, characterizing many of Leah Price’s arguments about non-responsive readers. These notes are not close reading dictionary but rather something more complex and social, as a group has formed, primarily of pseudonymous teenagers, who use the dictionary in order to chat in a space that has been unrestricted by their parents or educators.

This paper examines this pocket of activity to the degree that it is representative of all digital reading practices and evidences. As the text is transformed into a social network and data to be mined for a variety of companies, to what degree can we see these readers as representative of the new forms of reading on top of the book rather through or in to it.

“Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers.” Real, ideal or implied…? The Reader in Stylistics. June 2014. University of Nottingham.

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