I would prefer not to turn the page: Reading and Writing in the Unlimited Digital Space

  • Ana Sabino Doutoramento em Materialidades da Literatura, Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Coimbra


The limits of the page have been historically set by the constrictions of the materials on which the text is inscribed. In the digital age, those materials no longer impose a physical limit, and the limits are more bound to what are our established reading practices and conventions. We still need to access the text in finite portions — we cannot process the infinitude of text that the limitless digital space would allow. Hence, notions as window or frame appear to make this infinite space readable — not unlike the ancient practice of reading and writing on a scroll, which contained large texts, but could only be read portion by portion. Nowadays, we no longer simply turn a page and leave it behind; in our perception, it is more like a frame is constantly being repositioned. In order to question this transition and its implications, we will be looking at a paper and a digital edition of Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville.


reading surfaces, graphical conventions, page, scroll, frame

  • Abstract viewed = 46 times
  • PDF viewed = 47 times
  • HTML viewed = 17 times


Download data is not yet available.


BRINGHURST, Robert (1992). The Elements of Typographic Style. Vancouver: Hartley and Marks.

CARPENTER, J. R., (2013). “...and by Islands I Mean Paragraphs.” 29 June 2017. http://luckysoap.com/andbyislands/.

DRUCKER, Johanna (2013). “Frame Jumps and Mixed Modalities: Reading And/as Interface.” Book 2.0 3.2: 97–111. doi:10.1386/btwo.3.2.97_1.

DRUCKER, Johanna (2009). “Modeling Functionality: From Codex to e-Book.” In SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing. London, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 165–74.

FARIA, Maria Isabel, and Maria da Graça Pericão (2008). Dicionário do Livro. Coimbra: Almedina.

GAUR, Albertine (1984). A History of Writing. London: The British Library.

HAYLES, N. Katherine (2006). “The Time of Digital Poetry: from Object to Event.” New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories. Cambridge: MIT Press. 181–210.

HOUSTON, Keith (2016). The Book. New York: W. W. Norton.

KAY, Alan, and Adele Goldberg (2003). “Personal Dynamic Media.” Computer 10.3 (1977): 31–41. Reprinted in The New Media Reader. Ed. Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Montfort. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 391-404.

MANGUEL, Alberto (1996). A History of Reading. London: Harper Collins.

McCLOUD, Scott (2009). “The Infinite Canvas.” 29 June 2017. http://scottmccloud.com/4-inventions/canvas/.

McCLOUD, Scott (2003). “The Right Number.” 29 June 2017. http://scottmccloud.com/1-webcomics/trn-intro/index.html.

MELVILLE, Herman (2004). Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street. [First published, New York: Putnam’s magazine, 1853]. 29 June 2017. https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/11231.

MELVILLE, Herman (2013). Bartleby. Fremdsprachentexte/Universal-Bibliothek Englisch. Stuttgart: Reclam.

MURRAY, Janet H. (2011). “Inventing the Medium – Glossary.” 29 June 2017. https://inventingthemedium.com/glossary/#spatial.
How to Cite
SABINO, Ana. I would prefer not to turn the page: Reading and Writing in the Unlimited Digital Space. MATLIT: Materialities of Literature, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 1, p. 135-148, aug. 2018. ISSN 2182-8830. Available at: <https://impactum-journals.uc.pt/matlit/article/view/5269>. Date accessed: 24 may 2019.
Secção Temática | Thematic Section