One of my favorite YouTube videos is “Medieval Helpdesk,” a Norwegian bit of humor from around 2008. For those who may have missed it, the joke concerns a monk in need of assistance operating that newfangled invention, the book.
Not only is the monk stymied about how to open the book or continue the text after the page ends, he worries that if he changes the “view” or even closes the book, the contents will somehow disappear. Like a modern customer, though, he quickly sees (and complains) that it takes longer to “turn the page” than just to unroll a scroll. Clearly he will be uncomfortable with the new technology no matter what, until he gets used to it.
Just as we know that a book is not like a scroll or any other antiquated device for recording information, we know that digital books are not really like print books, but we’re still annoyed at the difference. We’d make digital books more like print books, if we could; we’d be more comfortable with them.
But maybe we do, after all, need a new way of looking at the book ...