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Cornell Student Articles on Topical Affairs

Digital technology transforms culture of the written word

The power of literature has been consistently strong for centuries. The format of the written word has had significant impact on people, with entire generations being inspired and moved by spectacular books that have been relevant or otherwise tremendously touching over the years. Traditionally, literature was delivered into the eager hands of avid readers in the form of paper and ink. Traditional books, even now, remain as charming as ever. There is something incredibly comforting about sitting down or lying down somewhere and cracking open a book to dive into another world, through the eyes and perspective of another person. Literature is so special because it allows us to see worlds from new perspectives, with some of these worlds being entirely made up from the minds of the writers who brought them to life. And now, as the world has swan-dived into an age of digitalisation and rapid technological advancement, the culture of the written word is evolving, with technology and digitalisation at the forefront of that evolution.

While the traditional way of consuming literature will never die, it is being given a digital transformation – and more and more people are jumping on board. The relationship between literature and technology has been historically complicated and simple at once. It is an intriguing ideal, and it is also one that has captured the hearts and minds of both young and old generations of keen readers. Literature has been possible through print technology in the first place, and now it has been made globally accessible through digital technology and transport technology. People all over the world can access the same books either traditionally or online, and they are loving it. There is something exhilarating about diving head-first into a world of someone else’s creation, and readers the world over love to let it sweep over them, coming out only when they have spent all the time they want in this other exciting world.

And then enter technological advancement and rapid digitalisation. the world of literature has been fundamentally changed by technologies, and with the introduction of digital ereaders, people can experience their favourite stories without having to allow for an abundance of rom in their living spaces to hold all of the literature their heart desires. Additionally, these same people can now highlight their favourite quotes on their Kindles, effectively creating a digital catalogue of their favourite literary moments without marking their physical books with highlighters and markers. Of course, there are readers who prefer the traditional books to the digital versions that are Kindles and the like, but the convenience and power of having every story imaginable available through a single small device is becoming more and more impressive to people. Consumers today want convenience, and readers are no different. Therefore, a digital ereader like a Kindle is the perfect device for a modern reader.

The introduction of technological disruption to the world of literature is something that has been happening slowly in recent years, and is now beginning to positively burst with energy and popularity. More and more, avid readers are realising that they can have all the stories they want without needing to take up all the room that traditional books do. This is useful for students (so they do not have to carry around all their learning materials) and travellers (so they do not have to take up precious luggage space trying to jam all their reading material for their travels into one bag or suitcase), as well as many other demographics. Digitalisation has positively transformed the literature world, giving it a digital age revitalisation. Further, it has also enhanced the power of the written word by modernising it and making it more relevant for digitally-fluent generations of readers. When readers can get their information both consistently and easily, they read more. The Kindle embodies both access and convenience.

The world of literature is clad in traditional mannerisms of consumerism. Avid readers have historically turned to (literal) open books to get their information, to explore new worlds. And while this traditional format of literature will never completely dissipate, it is becoming increasingly clear that technological disruption is having a significant impact on the world of literature. This is true in that the introduction of digital ereaders like the Kindle have given rise to a new generation of literature lovers and avid readers alike. And while there is an ongoing conversation about if the traditional or modern format of literature is best, one thing is certain: if people are still reading, and passionate storytellers are still writing, the culture of literature is alive and thriving. At the end of the day, is that not the aim? To keep an art form alive? At least for now, it seems that literature is in safe hands.

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