Reconceptualizing Literature

“The point, to my mind, is not that it is better (or worse) but rather that it is different, and the differences can leverage traditional assumptions so they become visible and hence available for rethinking and reconceptualizing.”

How Do We Think? 

-N. Katherine Hayles, 2012

There are more people on their laptops and tablets than people reading books at the Barnes & Nobles cafe I am sitting in. Even I didn’t come here to look for a book, but rather for a place to work on my digital device.

For the past two decades, this giant bookseller’s business model has depended on print texts to sustain its growth. The store, much like a library, holds a selection of information in these asset heavy books for an individual to take away and slowly read and digest the content. And now any individual can access any information in an asset light laptop or tablet and quickly read and jump through content. And only recently it shows that the retailer is making radical decisions to counter this digital behavioral threat. A large pop-up shop for the Barnes & Nobles Nook e-reader appears at the center of store with a representative actively trying to make a sale. It is the very first display one sees when walking into the store. Even in the cafe, the company chose to serve the Starbucks brand because it clicks in consumers’ minds (like mine) that Barnes & Nobles is a place that welcomes both book and tech users alike.


Barnes & Nobles Nook / At least the books are on sale.

Looking at this transitionary period between print and digital, and at the new behaviors we have adapted from technology, the visible differences in human actions are neither bad nor good for the future of literature, but an opportunity for new ways of rethinking existing methods.