In “The Enkindling Reciter: E-Books in the Bibliographic Imagination,” Alan Galey performs a bibliographic study of The Sentamentalists by Johanna Skibsbrud, from its first, small press print publication to its Kobo e-book version to its post-Giller prize larger print run. Galey argues that it is still possible — even necessary — to study the materiality of e-books like the Kobo version of The Sentamentalists as a book historian. To do so, Galey argues, requires a combination of traditional bibliographic skills and digital forensics à la Matt Kirschenbaum in Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination.
Galey frames his case study within the context of technology demos in general, and Steve Jobs’s demonstration of the iPad in particular. Galey draws a comparison to the “enkindling Reciter,” a role that Romantic poet Samuel Coleridge claimed was key to oral readings of his poetry. This performative element, Galey suggests, emphasizes that “reading has become a more intensely public and culturally loaded act than ever” (213).
Overall, Galey provides a primer in how to analyze e-books from a textual studies perspective. He suggests a way for book historians to place and interpret the e-book in the larger context of a shared cultural imagination. Traditional humanities skills are key for the interpretation of new media artifacts, Galey asserts; however, they must be paired with a thorough, technical, materialist understanding of the object of study.
Galey, Alan. 2012. “The Enklndling Reciter: E-Books in the Bibliographic Imagination.” Book History 15: 210-47.
Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. 2008. Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.