In “Back to the Future,” Bob Stein discusses SocialBook, an Institute for the Future of the Book project that uses networked technologies to publish and read cultural materials. He argues that prior to the invention of the printing press, reading used to be a collaborative activity in social knowledge creation. People would gather around texts, discuss them, and insert comments into manuscripts via marginalia. Once book production became mechanized, and more people developed literacy skills, reading became a much more private, individualized activity. Technologies like SocialBook, which allows for side-by-side text and commenting, reproduce opportunities for the tradition of mutual knowledge-making that reading used to engender.
Stein, Bob. 2015. “Back to the Future.” Journal of Electronic Publishing 18(2): 5pp.