Before the e-text


…Andrew Piper’s Book Was There: Reading in Electronic Times (University of Chicago Press) occupies a niche somewhere between a couple of fields of study that were already interdisciplinary. One is the history of the book, from scroll to e-reader. The other is a phenomenological psychology of reading – an effort, that is, to describe the concrete experience of engaging with the written word, which involves more than the sense of sight, or even the neural processes that somehow convert squiggles into meaning. “Books have been important to us,” Piper writes in a passage that made me glad to have read him, “because of the way our interactions with them span several domains of sensory and physical experience. ... Piper, an associate professor of languages, literature, and culture at McGill University, in Montreal, won the Modern Language Association Prize for a first book Dreaming in Books: The Making of the Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age (2009), also published by the University of Chicago Press; and his paper “Rethinking the Print Object: Goethe and the Book of Everything” (2006) received the Goethe Society of North America’s annual essay prize.