Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

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Daniel Eagan

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Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 10:50 am

Frederica wrote:It doesn't matter how you read it, as long as you read it.


Words on Screen by Naomi S. Baron (Oxford) examines the drawbacks of reading on digital devices. Here's a review: http://www.wsj.com/articles/book-review ... 1424391381" target="_blank

And an interview: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/1207 ... ital-world" target="_blank

There's also this article about how digital devices disrupt sleep patterns: http://www.wsj.com/articles/open-the-bo ... 1419272534" target="_blank
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 12:18 pm

Daniel Eagan wrote:
Frederica wrote:It doesn't matter how you read it, as long as you read it.


Words on Screen by Naomi S. Baron (Oxford) examines the drawbacks of reading on digital devices. Here's a review: http://www.wsj.com/articles/book-review ... 1424391381" target="_blank" target="_blank

And an interview: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/1207 ... ital-world" target="_blank" target="_blank

There's also this article about how digital devices disrupt sleep patterns: http://www.wsj.com/articles/open-the-bo ... 1419272534" target="_blank" target="_blank


Wow. That was one big chorus line of jerking knees, with nary a hard fact among them. There was much the same horrified squawking when book publishers stopped using vellum and switched to paper. Let's not even go into the change from clay tablets to papyrus! The howling!

I just had this conversation on FB at the beginning of the week. I have noticed a difference, a subtle one, between reading paper books and in e-reading--a difference that may only apply to me. I read faster and I read more with e-readers and I read more closely, word for word, rather than parsing a paragraph as I do with books. No scholar has yet asked me about that, btw. I now infinitely prefer reading my kindle, to the point where I look first for e-editions, and if the book doesn't have one, then I might just skip on to the next book on my list, the one with the e-edition.

Physically, it's more comfortable for me, too. I can adjust spacing/kerning/print size for my eyes. I can read without glasses (over my contacts!), which I cannot do with a book. I can read with my kitty sound asleep on my chest or in my arm, which I can't do with a book. I can read in the dark, because my kindle is backlit. Getting sleepy? Just set the thing down and go to sleep, it will turn itself off.

See, this is one of those "burning issues" I do not understand. Why is it an issue? What the hell does anyone care how another person prefers to read? Why this weird and silly crusade? I have just explained my preference for e-readers, but do not make the mistake of thinking I have to justify it to anyone, I don't. I didn't even have to explain it, frankly.
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entredeuxguerres

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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 12:56 pm

Frederica wrote:...I have just explained my preference for e-readers, but do not make the mistake of thinking I have to justify it to anyone, I don't. I didn't even have to explain it, frankly.


In that case, thanks for your indulgence.
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 1:37 pm

entredeuxguerres wrote:
Frederica wrote:...I have just explained my preference for e-readers, but do not make the mistake of thinking I have to justify it to anyone, I don't. I didn't even have to explain it, frankly.


In that case, thanks for your indulgence.


Give it a rest, jackass.
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 2:11 pm

entredeuxguerres wrote:Using Kindle, how (to ask a rhetorical question) does one make marginal notations, or leave book-marks for later reference?


You write in your books!? Shame on you!
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 2:13 pm

Frederica wrote:
entredeuxguerres wrote:
FrankFay wrote:Plus with a simple ap you can read your Kindle books on your desktop...


Must be as enjoyable as watching a film the same way...which, I know, many are satisfied to do, they say. oon, someone will probably assert the convenience of reading Middlemarch on their new Apple wristwatch while hanging from a subway strap.


It doesn't matter how you read it, as long as you read it.



Actually, Fred, I think the way you read something does make a difference. That difference lies not so much in the material that the reading matter is made of -- although I believe that plays a part -- as the method of reading. Indications are that the revolution in reading in the Middle Ages, when people began to read silently, caused a drop in retention; apparently the stimulation of reading out loud aids the retention. Likewise issues of typeface, punctuation and contrast do make a difference.

I write this as someone whose personal library was about 50,000 volumes about thirty months ago. It had reached a size where I could not usefully store and arrange things for me to find. What use is owning a book if you can't find it? I considered culling my library to a reasonable level, but that seemed impractical. To cut my library to a "reasonable" level would take on the order of how long it had taken me to acquire them in the first place. I didn't wish to spend the half a century, and given the fact that I owned some fairly valuable volumes, including a goodly number of signed and inscribed First Editions, I tried to sell them.

Selling them en masse was no more worthwhile. Book dealers offered me about a penny on the dollar of value. So I called in some friends, gave them a couple of thousands books, and donated the rest to a charity that would give others a chance to read these books which had given me so much pleasure.... giving me a tax write-off worth about thirty cents on the dollar.

I bought an IPad and, like you, love it. It has given me the chance to really delve into pre-20th century literature, the stuff that you can get copies for free.

I am firmly of the opinion that publishers charge an outrageous premium for ebooks. Given that the costs of producing a physical book are eliminated, ebooks should be very inexpensive. Indeed, a couple of books that I have read from professional writers who have chosen to self-publish run about $4, less than a quarter of an ebook from a mainline publisher. These publisher claim that they are acting in the interest of the writers -- yet the three news items about how Hachette is defending their authors mention Hachette's publication of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I'm sure Gibbon is glad for his continuing royalties.

I am glad for the lowered cost, the ease with which I can switch books, that I have all my library with me at all times and that I have walls again, instead of bookshelves with books stuffed into every cranny. I miss the physical pleasure of admiring the bookmaking, but few publishers bother with that any more. For me, it's a great advantage, even if others don't find it so.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Fri Mar 13, 2015 8:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 2:18 pm

Bob, that's very interesting about retention and silent reading.
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 2:41 pm

boblipton wrote:Actually, Fred, I think the way you read something does make a difference. That difference lies not so much in the material that the reading matter is made of -- although I believe that plays a part -- as the method of reading. Indications are that the revolution in reading in the Middle Ages, when people began to read silently, caused a drop in retention; apparently the stimulation of reading out loud aids the retention. Likewise issues of typeface, punctuation and contrast do make a difference.

I write this as someone whose personal library was about 50,000 volumes about thirty months ago. It had reached a size where I could not usefully store and arrange things for me to find things. What use is owning a book if you can't find it. I considered culling my to a reasonable level, but that seemed impractical. To cut my library to a "reasonable" level would take on the order of how long it had taken me to acquire them in the first place. I didn't wish to spend the half a century it would take, and given the fact that I owned some fairly valuable volumes, including a goodly number of signed and inscribed First Editions, I tried to sell them.

Selling them en masse was no more worthwhile. Book dealers offered me about a penny on the dollar of value. So I called in some friends, gave them a couple of thousands books, and donated the rest to a charity that would give others a chance to read these books which had given me so much pleasure.... giving me a tax write-off worth about thirty cents on the dollar.

I book an IPad and, like you, love it. It has given me the chance to really delve into pre-20th century literature, the stuff that you can get copies for free.

I am firmly of the opinion that publishers charge an outrageous premium for ebooks. Given that the costs of producing a physical book are eliminated, ebooks should be very inexpensive. Indeed, a couple of books that I have read from professional writers who have chosen to self-publish run about $4, less than a quarter of an ebook from a mainline publisher. These publisher claim that they are acting in the interest of the writers -- yet the three news items about how Hachette is defending their authors mention Hachette's publication of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I'm sure Gibbon is glad for his continuing royalties.

I am glad for the lowered cost, the ease with which I can switch books, that I have all my library with me at all times and that I have walls again, instead of bookshelves with books stuffed into every cranny. I miss the physical pleasure of admiring the bookmaking, but few publishers bother with that any more. For me, it's a great advantage, even if others don't find it so.

Bob


Er, where did you find this information? Most people in the Middle Ages couldn't read at all, silently or otherwise. Even most elites couldn't read. As I said, I think there is a definite, but subtle, difference in how I process reading on a kindle and how I read a book, but whatever that difference is, no one has offered to do any EEGs on me while I read and I haven't yet seen any reports in Science. But it's made me into a bookworm again and thank you very much for that, Mr. Amazon.

Don't get me started on e-book pricing.

This conversation has morphed away from Mark's original post, although it is interesting. Can it be moved to a new heading?
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 4:01 pm

rudyfan wrote:
entredeuxguerres wrote:Using Kindle, how (to ask a rhetorical question) does one make marginal notations, or leave book-marks for later reference?


You write in your books!? Shame on you!


"Notations" I used for rhetorical effect, but I do make pencil marks--of no consequence in new books & paperbacks, which I've bought on-line for pennies on the list-price dollar--like the brand new copy of The Chief I just bought for 99 cents with the original Hearst Castle $20 price sticker still attached. Of course I don't do this in my antiquarian books, though light pencil marks are easily erased. Books marks (home-made) I use extensively.
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 4:18 pm

boblipton wrote:...Book dealers offered me about a penny on the dollar of value...

Bob


One of those grim facts of life I was forced to learn decades ago. But until recently I had a means to recover something like fair value of better quality books--a good friend, much younger than I, who owned a very successful antiquarian book shop in Lake Placid. SO successful that, having made a mint from the tourist traffic, he abruptly "retired"! A blow as heavy as it was unexpected, leaving me with no alternatives.
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 4:20 pm

rudyfan wrote:
entredeuxguerres wrote:Using Kindle, how (to ask a rhetorical question) does one make marginal notations, or leave book-marks for later reference?


You write in your books!? Shame on you!


Electronically. If you tap the upper right corner of the page you will bookmark it- to find your bookmarks just go to the BOOKMARK function. You can highlight desired passages by dragging a finger over them & clicking SAVE - you can also add comments. With the proper settings you can also read the notes others have left.

Best of all - a click removes all notes, highlights and marks- I'm currently going through a once lovely edition of THE WAY OF ALL FLESH which a college instructor made copiuous notes in using ink- I wish I could clean the pages with a click but they are forever ruined.
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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 4:21 pm

Frederica wrote:Give it a rest, jackass.


Such eloquence I can't hope to match!
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 4:50 pm

I loved being able to read Moby Dick at my leisure on the train at odd times over a period of 2 years, and i'm still working on rereading Sherlock Holmes. I've so far just gotten the freebies or cheapies, but it does seem that the iBook has lost functionality. I also try to read PDF of articles i'm supposed to absorb or comment on, and it seems that i can't highlight text on a PDF, though i think i can't still bookmark. No note taking that i can find.

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Re: Does anybody really care?

PostFri Mar 13, 2015 8:45 pm

Frederica wrote:
boblipton wrote:Actually, Fred, I think the way you read something does make a difference. That difference lies not so much in the material that the reading matter is made of -- although I believe that plays a part -- as the method of reading. Indications are that the revolution in reading in the Middle Ages, when people began to read silently, caused a drop in retention; apparently the stimulation of reading out loud aids the retention. Likewise issues of typeface, punctuation and contrast do make a difference.

I write this as someone whose personal library was about 50,000 volumes about thirty months ago. It had reached a size where I could not usefully store and arrange things for me to find things. What use is owning a book if you can't find it. I considered culling my to a reasonable level, but that seemed impractical. To cut my library to a "reasonable" level would take on the order of how long it had taken me to acquire them in the first place. I didn't wish to spend the half a century it would take, and given the fact that I owned some fairly valuable volumes, including a goodly number of signed and inscribed First Editions, I tried to sell them.

Selling them en masse was no more worthwhile. Book dealers offered me about a penny on the dollar of value. So I called in some friends, gave them a couple of thousands books, and donated the rest to a charity that would give others a chance to read these books which had given me so much pleasure.... giving me a tax write-off worth about thirty cents on the dollar.

I book an IPad and, like you, love it. It has given me the chance to really delve into pre-20th century literature, the stuff that you can get copies for free.

I am firmly of the opinion that publishers charge an outrageous premium for ebooks. Given that the costs of producing a physical book are eliminated, ebooks should be very inexpensive. Indeed, a couple of books that I have read from professional writers who have chosen to self-publish run about $4, less than a quarter of an ebook from a mainline publisher. These publisher claim that they are acting in the interest of the writers -- yet the three news items about how Hachette is defending their authors mention Hachette's publication of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I'm sure Gibbon is glad for his continuing royalties.

I am glad for the lowered cost, the ease with which I can switch books, that I have all my library with me at all times and that I have walls again, instead of bookshelves with books stuffed into every cranny. I miss the physical pleasure of admiring the bookmaking, but few publishers bother with that any more. For me, it's a great advantage, even if others don't find it so.

Bob


Er, where did you find this information? Most people in the Middle Ages couldn't read at all, silently or otherwise. Even most elites couldn't read. As I said, I think there is a definite, but subtle, difference in how I process reading on a kindle and how I read a book, but whatever that difference is, no one has offered to do any EEGs on me while I read and I haven't yet seen any reports in Science. But it's made me into a bookworm again and thank you very much for that, Mr. Amazon.

Don't get me started on e-book pricing.

This conversation has morphed away from Mark's original post, although it is interesting. Can it be moved to a new heading?



Once upon a time I had intellectual pretensions and did some post-graduate work in communications theory at NYU under Neil Postman. I apologize for not being able to cite a source, but it came up in discussion. While literacy was certainly not universal, it was not unheard of and apparently this was accepted as true. Doubtless, since then, MRI and such might have been used to indicate what parts of the brain are hard at work when reading silently and when reading out loud. Or perhaps we were being bsed. I know that I had issues with McLuhanesque communications theory as taught, but that's NYU for you.

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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSat Mar 14, 2015 12:24 am

I occasionally write in books, and plenty of authors do too. When the Harry Ransom Center received Evelyn Waugh's personal library, they found virtually all of the books had been marked up by Waugh.
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSat Mar 14, 2015 9:33 am

missdupont wrote:I occasionally write in books, and plenty of authors do too. When the Harry Ransom Center received Evelyn Waugh's personal library, they found virtually all of the books had been marked up by Waugh.


Does make a big difference who does the marking--same comments as Waugh's scribbled by a "nobody" (such as myself), & the book is merely defaced. Love to hear what Waugh thought about Rebecca West's books, or James about George Eliot, or Edith Wharton about Proust (her library went to one of the sons of Kenneth Clark).

I have a facsimile-reprint of a copy of a technical book once owned by a another noted technical writer, who'd added his own copious notes to almost every page; those notes made that copy, which was a rare book anyway, immensely valuable.
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSat Mar 14, 2015 2:27 pm

I don't have a "Kindle" - an odd name for the device when one considers how close the name is to "Kindling" - the wood we use to start a fire! Was someone, tongue in cheek, trying to tell us something. :D

Although I do read the computer screen - and attempt to squint at the tiny print face on my notebook, I must say that I prefer to relax in an easy chair and doze off whilst reading a real book. Once, I would also be covered in Newspapers on a daily basis, but now that they have all turned into tabloids written by ten year-olds, I only buy one, once a week for the television programmes. I therefore tend to look at news stories now on the computer.

There is a kind of security blanket for me in having walls lined with books. I know they are there - even though most were read years ago, but I know I need them for reference. It's the same with the gramophone records. I could tell you what's there and even hear the music in my head - despite not playing some records for years. I think that some of us are inflicted with "collectivocous" and cannot bear to depart from things - even though those things no longer serve any great use - besides - do I really want to read 21st Century fashion - by looking at my watch?
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSat Mar 14, 2015 2:44 pm

For every book I have on my shelves, there's a memory, even if it's just a reminder of the time in my life when I bought it or read it. I'll never part with them.
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSat Mar 14, 2015 5:21 pm

Michael O'Regan wrote:For every book I have on my shelves, there's a memory, even if it's just a reminder of the time in my life when I bought it or read it. I'll never part with them.


I knows what you mean.
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSat Mar 14, 2015 5:34 pm

My son has a Kindle, I read on the iPad using the Kindle app. And for whatever reason, I find it hard to read fiction that way, but not nonfiction. I don't think that's anything intrinsic to the device, more a sign that 1) I'm already used to reading non-fiction online and 2) the always-connected iPad is sitting there tempting me to check email/Twitter/NitrateVille/whatever, which breaks my literary concentration. I can keep that attention for practical non-fiction, but fiction fights it, I resist being drawn into that world when a million others entice from the interwebs.

This is entirely my failing, not the device's. As the late Neil Postman would have been the first to tell Bob.

I'm sure the next generation won't have these issues. They also won't have books per se, in the fairly narrow sense that we require things worth paying money to read to be at least about 175 pages, etc. I am all for the return of the monograph, like Sherlock Holmes used to write. I think of a book like David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise, which has an amusing, insightful opening chapter of pop sociology followed by a dozen which belabor the point made long before. It's only misshapen like that because he had to sell a 200-page book even if he could express his ideas more wittily in 20.

I don't fetishize many of my books— okay, finding Dr. Seuss's The Sleep Book and rediscovering my 6-year-old self page by page was pretty Proustian— but I have long made a point of sticking notable paper souvenirs into books as time capsules to find later. Several years ago I opened my college copy of Lewis Jacobs' The Rise of American Film and found a note from my first boss (on stationery notepad from my first ad agency) telling me where to eat in Chicago, and consider it the ur-document of my modern semi-career as a food writer. But that has little enough to do with Jacobs...
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSat Mar 14, 2015 6:19 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:My son has a Kindle, I read on the iPad using the Kindle app. And for whatever reason, I find it hard to read fiction that way, but not nonfiction. I don't think that's anything intrinsic to the device, more a sign that 1) I'm already used to reading non-fiction online and 2) the always-connected iPad is sitting there tempting me to check email/Twitter/NitrateVille/whatever, which breaks my literary concentration. I can keep that attention for practical non-fiction, but fiction fights it, I resist being drawn into that world when a million others entice from the interwebs.

This is entirely my failing, not the device's. As the late Neil Postman would have been the first to tell Bob.

I'm sure the next generation won't have these issues. They also won't have books per se, in the fairly narrow sense that we require things worth paying money to read to be at least about 175 pages, etc. I am all for the return of the monograph, like Sherlock Holmes used to write. I think of a book like David Brooks' Bobos in Paradise, which has an amusing, insightful opening chapter of pop sociology followed by a dozen which belabor the point made long before. It's only misshapen like that because he had to sell a 200-page book even if he could express his ideas more wittily in 20.

I don't fetishize many of my books— okay, finding Dr. Seuss's The Sleep Book and rediscovering my 6-year-old self page by page was pretty Proustian— but I have long made a point of sticking notable paper souvenirs into books as time capsules to find later. Several years ago I opened my college copy of Lewis Jacobs' The Rise of American Film and found a note from my first boss (on stationery notepad from my first ad agency) telling me where to eat in Chicago, and consider it the ur-document of my modern semi-career as a food writer. But that has little enough to do with Jacobs...



Well, it was McLuhanesque communications theory. McLuhan's famous epigram, that "the medium is the message" is catchy nonsense when expressed that way, but it simply means that the context affects the message. There is little doubt that there is a big difference between reading a paperback while straphanging and opening an illuminated folio -- not that they have straps on the subway any more, so that is another matter, and reading a folio on the subway is not a great idea during rush hour. Everything we do makes up who we are, and there comes a time when we just don't see that the effort of learning to do things yields worthwhile results.

I had dinner with my niece the lawyer, and as we parted, she said I was the only person she knew who had an answering machine and I should get a cell phone. "Just wait. In twenty-five years, your niece is going to tell you you should get the new telepathic brain implant, and you'll go on about risk of infection, how the reports are that people are unable to distinguish between reality and telepathic perceptions and being able to wait three hours when she wants to talk to you at 3AM."

As for the return of the monograph, the first thing I got on my Ipad was Montaigne's essays, which I had first attempted to read about thirty years ago. I was able to read them over the course of a year, marking many a notation in my copy.

Bob
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSat Mar 14, 2015 11:14 pm

I also think McLuhan's point is that all TV is more like TV than it is like anything else, i.e., William F. Buckley on TV is less like William F. Buckley in a book than it is like Gunsmoke and Let's Make a Deal. I think there's some truth to that.

I used to have a somewhat pretentious parlor game of asking people what's the oldest book that you feel able to relate to, that hits you where you live as opposed to, say, "Oh, existence is like shadows in a cave, interesting, now where'd I put the Cheez-Its?" (The Bible is disqualified, as too easy an answer and probably false.) My answer is Montaigne; he reads like a thoughtful friend you could have a beer with. The ancients are alien, but he's not.
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSun Mar 15, 2015 5:49 am

Eh. There's something in what McLuhan says at length, but if so, McLuhan in epigrams is less like McLuhan at length, than it is like Twitter. If I want epigrams, I'll stick to Martial.

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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSun Mar 15, 2015 3:02 pm

boblipton wrote:I had dinner with my niece the lawyer, and as we parted, she said I was the only person she knew who had an answering machine and I should get a cell phone. "
Bob


Inform her you know of someone who has neither. (I regretfully retired my "Lucy-style" dial phone 20 yrs ago, when I finally accepted the impossibility of telecommunication without touch-tone.)

And thanks for providing me, at last, with an intelligent rendering of McLuhan's indulgence in what the shrinks call word-salad.
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entredeuxguerres

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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSun Mar 15, 2015 3:09 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:I also think McLuhan's point is that all TV is more like TV than it is like anything else, i.e., William F. Buckley on TV is less like William F. Buckley in a book than it is like Gunsmoke...


Yes, Gunsmoke was what came to mind when I saw his thrilling live-TV spat with Gore Vidal.
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Donald Binks

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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSun Mar 15, 2015 3:14 pm

machine and I should get a cell phone.


I too resisted the "urge" to get a mobile 'phone for as long as possible. My car braking down in a remote rural area finally prompted me to get one - and has since been relegated mostly to the glovebox in the car. What surprises me is the number of dingbats who choose to ring me up on my mobile 'phone number instead of the landline number when they know I am home 95% of the time? I feel for all those poor working souls who can now be constantly harassed by their bosses - luckily I retired before this situation arose, otherwise I would have been sacked for frightful language had I been disturbed during my "down time".
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"I was in love with a beautiful blonde one time. She led me to drink. It's the only thing I'm thankful to her for."
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entredeuxguerres

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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSun Mar 15, 2015 3:38 pm

Donald Binks wrote:I too resisted the "urge" to get a mobile 'phone for as long as possible. My car braking down in a remote rural area finally prompted me to get one...


An altogether reasonable & prudent justification. Back in the pre-cell '70s & '80s, I was doing a lot of long-distance driving & thought of acquiring a (very expensive) radio-phone; but that need has passed & I'm not now interested.
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Re: Reading on electronic devices (split topic)

PostSun Mar 15, 2015 4:22 pm

Yes, Gunsmoke was what came to mind when I saw his thrilling live-TV spat with Gore Vidal.


Ha! Yes, that town clearly was not big enough for the both of them.
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier

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