Why Do We Call Ebooks, Ebooks?

There’s this great article by Mandy Brown over at aworkinglibrary, asking a worthy question: why are ebooks called ebooks, considering that previous iterations of the ‘book’ were called by distinctively different names? Scrolls were different from Codexes, Codexes were different from Books, and now … why ebook? Why not something vastly different, considering that ebooks have nothing in common with books?

We are now ushering in a new age of books which exist without any physical presence at all, which can be transmitted across oceans in moments, in which annotations and criticisms can be shared in ways no one of the seventeenth century could ever have imagined. (Indeed, ways we of the twenty-first century are only beginning to understand.) And yet we still stubbornly refer to them as “books,” tucking but a sly vowel up front (“ebook”), as if we’re afraid to really admit how much has changed. This naming convention is no less absurd than if the codex was called a “folded scroll” or the scroll a “soft, thin, rolled tablet.” Dramatic changes in form require equally dramatic changes in terms.

Hate to quaffle over an already excellent post, but I wonder if taxonomy changes really reflect our society’s acceptance of a medium. Would it matter if we use different naming conventions? And it’s an interesting question to ask, in light of the current shift to digital lit. Because if Mandy’s right, then the amount of names applied to digital fiction (blook, wovel, webfic, blogfic, ebook, etc) simply mirrors the fragmented and disorganized medium we have at hand.

Possibly Related Posts:

Category: Publishing