I have to admit some astonishment at this statement. The advantage of being
able to search for words or phrases is a minor improvement on the reading
of a print novel. It only breaks on the edges of the most important
advantages of reading electronic text. Word searches are surely not what I
mean by the malleability of pixels. (But then, the Web is not what I mean
by hypertext either, even though that’s what everyone seems to be willing
to settle for at the moment.) “Active reading” used to mean what someone
did who used a dictionary, wrote in the margins, and especially, who
considered the meaning of the text she read. What Bob is proposing is that
we can do those same things now to a greater (faster!) degree (and with
only one finger) and so we are thereby more active readers. I wouldn’t
deny the obvious truth of that assessment, but want to suggest that if we
travel the road of “more active reading,” we ought to see a little of
where it goes. It seems to me that the inevitable development of more and
more active reading is the unsettling merge of author and audience. The
place where we are both, alternately and even simultaneously, is the event
(yes, time/space) that comes closer in my mind to describing the advantages
of electronic reading. We may have to attend the swarming questions of
ownership, authority, power, and quality, all of which belong to the
time/space of print, but who knows? maybe they’ll fade in the pixelated
light of reading that writes itself.

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