The Digital Potential of Bookmarks in Further Discussions

Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of Read by Jason Merkoski is one of the primary resources of my digital essay. Merkoski introduces himself as “Amazon’s first technology evangelist [who] helped invent technology used in today’s ebooks and […] lunched the first three kindle devices.” As a big fan of books in both non-digital and digital form, and as a technician of the field,  Merkoski re-tells the story of ebook evolution, or revolution, while considering and analyzing human confusions, resentments and disbeliefs in that process. At the end of each chapter, Merkoski brings up a related topic discussion, in the form of an online survey, and invites his readers to share their ideas, memories or critical views on twitter or Facebook with other readers of the same chapter. He calls these textual interludes as “bookmarks” and introduces them as bellow:

The “bookmark” at the end of each chapter takes a look at an element of print books we have come to love or loathe and how it will be affected, transformed, or eliminated by the move or ebooks. As used here, the term “bookmark” is a kind of  visual pun. Not only does it refer to an artifact from traditional print books, but  each “bookmark” also is a small interlude that describes the ways books have indelibly marked our lives and our culture of reading.(xvii)

He uses the book’s website as the basic reference: and for each Bookmark there is a link like (this is the first bookmark where you can choose Facebook or Twitter to carry the online conversation through.) There are 22 bookmarks in the book and 22 topics for online discussion. Interestingly enough, there is no chapter numbering in this book, and chapters are separated just by Bookmarks. As I read the printed version of Burning the Book rather than the Kindle edition, I was entertained by seeing the possibility of following what I was reading on a page, by joining an instant online community focused on the same topic, knowing where to stop by for each specific chapter. Although online discussions seem to be fragmented and not as categorized as the Bookmarks, I think the author has designed an experimental activity through which he might gather feedback, chapter by chapter, for further enquiries on the same subject. Moreover, I find the direction and pattern of these bookmarks appropriate for various undergraduate activities in our writing classes. We can ask our students to read one specific chapter of this book and then take part in its online activity. Students can also use their experience of an online conversation with other readers and also the author to compose an essay. As an example, look at the last paragraph of Bookmark 11:

Each family has its own story, often partly inscribed in the pages of its books. Does your family have a book with an important inscription? A family bible? Is a chapter of your own history preserved between the brittle pages of an old book?  Care to share your story?

Bookmark 12 and Bookmark 17 call for sharing personal reflections upon bookstores and book covers. There are also predictive activities which challenge the reader’s imagination; for example bookmark 19 ends with questions about the future of “three major digital media retailers Apple, Amazon and Google […]”  with a “fast-forward a hundred years” assumption. Although these bookmarks do not lead the reader to any new digital space, as they end in either Facebook or Twitter, the experience could be different specifically for an undergraduate student who enjoys posting on Facebook better than taking part in class discussions. However, I find Merkoski’s readers more engaged with Twitter option than Facebook. He also sends a digital autograph to his joined readers, which could be a new topic in digital versus non-digital debates in a writing session. We can even ask our students to read specific number of other readers’ comments and respond to them or analyze them. The digital generation gap, about which I’m writing my digital essay, might come up as a new topic for further discussions, after getting into these bookmarks.



2 thoughts on “The Digital Potential of Bookmarks in Further Discussions”

  1. Naghmeh,

    Obviously a number of books have started to make use of digital spaces as a way of further engaging the public, and extending the reader-author-community relationships into something far more interactive and visible than perhaps it used to be. But your description of Meroski’s work shows that these “bookmarks” aren’t just an unnecessary, disconnected external discourse, but something integral to Meroski’s project and interests. At least as you’ve described his work, he seems to be acknowledging that those of us in the thick of the “digital revolution,” with one foot still in the print world, need spaces to explore our reactions, fears, hopes, insights–that is, to explore how we FEEL about this massive change to writing and reading. That’s kind of fascinating, really. Group therapy for the digital generation gap!

    I guess what really interests me about Meroski’s project is that it resists taking sides (digital writing is good or bad), and instead acknowledges that our perspectives are contingent and bound up in a number of different things–particularly our history with print. By giving people a space to mourn the losses and celebrate the gains, he seems to implicitly acknowledge that such emotional processing is the only way we’re going to gain some perspective on these otherwise overwhelming changes. That this therapeutic discourse is taking place exclusively online seems to be a way to get people to FEEL the value of digital spaces, rather than just argue for such value.

    I also liked your suggestions for why this text might be useful in the classroom, and how, as a teacher, you might use it. Are you thinking about using it for your E110 courses in the fall? If so, I’d love to hear about how! Thanks for sharing this.


  2. Naghmeh,

    I gotta read this guy! He sounds very interesting, and I think I can see his influence on your digital essay.

    And I second Kiley’s idea about using digital reading (and texts) as a way of highlighting the distinctiveness of print reading (and texts).


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