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Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:05 PM

Behold, the Kindle of the 16th Century





One of the defining features of Kindles and iPads and their fellow e-readers is their ability to store tons of books in the same place, at the same time. Which means that, thanks to these quintessentially twenty-first-century technologies, we are newly encouraged to consume our books not as long meals, but as occasional snacks: a few nibbles of Moby-Dick here, a few bites of Bossypants there. Under e-readers' influence, the linear project of book-reading -- from page 1 to page 501, sequentially -- has shifted to something much more chaotic, much more casual, much more accommodating to whimsy and whim.

Literary restlessness, though, dates back much further than the 21st century. It dates back, at least, to the 16th -- to the Italian engineer Agostino Ramelli, and to his desire for a reading interface that would allow for book-borne snacking. Ramelli, who spent his professional career creating siege machinery for the military, wanted to develop a device that would allow a reader to reference multiple books at (pretty much) the same time -- a desire made especially practical given how large and heavy books were back then.

In his own book, published in 1588 and modestly titled The Various and Ingenious Machines of Captain Agostino Ramelli, the designer outlined his vision for a wheel-o-books that would employ the logic of other types of wheel (water, Ferris, "Price is Right", etc.) to rotate books clockwork-style before a stationary user. Ramelli planned to use epicyclic gearing -- a system that had at that point been used only in astronomical clocks -- to ensure that the shelves bearing the wheel's books (more than a dozen of them) would remain at the same angle no matter the wheel's position. The seated reader could then employ either hand or foot controls to move the desired book pretty much into her (or, much more likely, his) lap.

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/02/behold-the-kindle-of-the-16th-century/273577/

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Reply Behold, the Kindle of the 16th Century (Original post)
The Straight Story Feb 2013 OP
CJCRANE Feb 2013 #1
kentauros Feb 2013 #3
kentauros Feb 2013 #2
DreamGypsy Feb 2013 #4
kentauros Feb 2013 #5

Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:11 PM

1. Stick some wheels on it

and you've got a convenient, portable device.

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Response to CJCRANE (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:24 PM

3. Or an Art Car!

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Response to The Straight Story (Original post)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:23 PM

2. My reading habits are no different from print books to the Kindle.

I continue to read small bits, lose interest, and move on to something else. Unless it's a truly engaging story, I tend to not sit for hours on end just reading.

And I don't really understand this statement:
Under e-readers' influence, the linear project of book-reading -- from page 1 to page 501, sequentially -- has shifted to something much more chaotic, much more casual, much more accommodating to whimsy and whim.

If it's a story, you read it from beginning to end. I know of no one that reads a story non-sequentially. Reference books, on the other hand, don't require that sequential reading style. And whether it's a paper reference book, or one of the few I have on my Kindle, then I read the parts I need to read, not cover to cover.

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Response to kentauros (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:45 PM

4. My wife reads lots of murder mysteries...

...and she likes using her Kindle because of the search capability. What often happens is that late or in the middle of the story some detail that was introduced earlier becomes a significant or possibly critical clue to identifying the murderer(s) and/or motive(s). Rather than thumbing through the pages she is pretty good at choosing a search phrase that will identify the clue-providing context.

I don't think her technique justifies the "chaotic" or "whimsical" claim, but it does represent a usage pattern that is easier electronically than in hard copy.

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Response to DreamGypsy (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 27, 2013, 04:54 PM

5. Now that's a good technique :)

I never thought of that, as there have been times when I've forgotten something said long before that I needed context for whatever was happening right then.

One thing I love about some reference books (and some cookbooks) is that they'll link to other sections, and then all you have to do is hit the "back" button to get back to where you'd left off

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