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It's what people mean when they say "I just love the smell of the paper." They love books. It's very clear that David M. Levy loves books. More than that, he extends that love of and reverence for books to all documents, "speaking things," as he calls them in his scholarly and beautiful work Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age. He loves the words. He loves the images. He loves the numbers on the receipt from his lunch. They all speak to him. Through Scrolling Forward, I began to hear their voices, too (all but the lunch receipt).
From computers to calligraphy and back again, Levy gets at the very core of what a document is. He writes about the very first documents, and how they evolved from the need to witness transactions. Then he connects it to Walt Whitman's master work Leaves of Grass and slightly salacious stories of library science's eccentric genius Melvil Dewey. Levy has a particularly good understanding of ebooks, their popularity and their lack of the same. One does not come on that often. His explanations of the computer technologies which make digital documents possible are effortless and easy to understand for the lay person.
Medieval illuminations, Shakespeare, Xerox PARC and Victorian postcard should not mix up into anything approaching closure, yet some how, it all comes out making perfect sense. From a simple cash register receipt to the Loma Prieta earthquake and his own search for stability in an uncertain world, Levy stirs history, philosophy, technology and metaphysics into something not entirely unlike a fruit cake (weighty and satisfying, good shelf-life).
Scholarly books are not preferred reading. Too much of what comes out of academe is couched in self-consciously aggrandizing language. In short, the writing is abysmal. Not that Scrolling Forward is simply written. It's not. It's just beautifully written. Scrolling Forward sings. It digs down and hooks a finger into your soul and pulls. It's droll. You don't have to be a propeller head or an English geek to enjoy it. Without being fluffy, Scrolling Forward is fun to read.
M. E. Tyler's work has appeared in national magazines and high-profile web sites. A former software developer, Tyler has an eclectic technical background, programming for both the Mac and Windows and working as a Web site developer. Tyler was the ebook review editor for ForeWord Magazine and the editor-in-chief for ForeWord Reviews, and is the regular book review columnist for Writer's Exchange and for eBook Web. Tyler owns Private Ice Publications, a niche publishing house dedicated to publishing the best sports fiction for women.