From Print to Digital: Textual Technologies and Reading as a Sociotechnical Practice

  • Athena PiterouEmail author
  • Fred Steward
Part of the The Anthropocene: Politik—Economics—Society—Science book series (APESS, volume 3)


It is assumed that digital technologies contribute to sustainable consumption and production through dematerialization. Hence, digital text is seen as a way to reduce the environmental implications of printing. This chapter focuses on printed text which is published (mainly in the form of books) rather than on home or office printing. It is argued that a transition of books towards digitization involves changes not only in the technologies of book production, but also in the practices of writing and reading, and will more generally affect the ways readers interact with texts in a variety of situations. The chapter analyses the sociotechnical system of the printed paper text (focusing on printed books) and the historical co-evolution of print technologies and reading practices. The implications of digitization for textual production and consumption are then considered. The societal function of the printed paper text can be broadly defined as the development, preservation and diffusion of (usually) textual information. Yet, the concept of function is too limited in describing the multiple ways readers engage with texts: the interaction between books and readers differs according to readers’ intentions and the context of the action.


Book history Print technology Reading practices 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s)  2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Innovation and SustainabilityUniversity of GreenwichLondonUK
  2. 2.Innovation and SustainabilityPolicy Studies Institute, University of WestminsterLondonUK

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