For Augustine, the book’s closedness—that it could be grasped as a totality—was integral to its success in generating transformative reading experiences. Its closedness was the condition of the reader’s conversion. Digital texts, by contrast, are radically open in their networked form. They are marked by a very weak sense of closure. Indeed, it is often hard to know what to call them (e-books, books, texts, or just documents) without any clear sense of the material differences between them.
But on another level we could say that digital texts don’t so much cancel the book’s closedness as reinscribe it within themselves. Where books are closed on the outside and open on the inside, digital texts put this relationship in reverse order. The openness of the digital text—that it is hard to know where its contours are—contrasts with a performed inaccessibility that also belongs to the networked text. There is always something “out of touch” about the digital. Consider Kenneth Goldsmith’s online Soliloquy (2001), which was initially published as a printed book consisting of transcripts of his digitally recorded speech over the course of a single week. In the online version, words on the screen only appear when touched by the cursor (the electronic finger) and then only one sentence at a time. Every time we move the cursor to illuminate another sentence, the one before it disappears, just as the one after remains invisible. Like a jellyfish, the textual whole slips through our fingers.
Reading on a Kindle is not the same as reading a book. – Slate Magazine. An excerpt from Andrew Piper’s extraordinary Book Was There.