CodeX? That’s what two scholars from Arizona State’s Center for Science and the Imagination have proposed. The experience of reading a text on a screen is different from reading it on paper:

And yet publishers keep trying to re-create the print experience online, with the faux wood of the iOS bookstore and the fake page-turning animations on many e-readers. It’s time for that to end. We need to embrace digital reading as its own medium, not just a book under glass. That means imagining a new language for reading as an experience, starting with a new word to use instead of book.

And so:

With some trepidation, we would like to nominate codex, a word with a rich history that most of us don’t know anything about. Codex, derived from the Latin caudex (meaning “trunk of a tree”) even happens to contain the English word code, which will be central to the future of reading in a variety of ways. The things we’ll be reading in the future will not only involve a lot of programming; they’ll also require readers to decode complex, multilayered experiences and encode their own ideas as contributions in a variety of creative ways. Since standard printed books are technically codices, we propose (with significantly more trepidation) to distinguish our variant with one of those annoying midword capitals: codeX, to remind us that these new things involve experience, experimentation, expostulation … you know, all those X things.

I’d say the trepidation is justified. First of all, as they point out, codex has a clear meaning that refers to the paper of print books. To suggest that because it shares certain phonemes with code it should take on the meaning of code is a little odd. Second, it’s potentially confusing. Codex is used more than they suggest. And now only one strike on the keyboard would separate it from codeX. Welcome to typo and spell-check hell. And how am I supposed to say it? The words sound exactly the same. Should I emphasize the second syllable when referring to codeX but the first when referring to codex? I don’t know. Effective communication is hard enough as it is. Let’s not make it harder.

Thoughts? Do we need a new word for the e-book? If so, what should it be?


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