In an interview widely reported today, the American novelist, Jonathan Franzen, reveals his preference for the pbook (the physical book) as opposed to the ebook. He comments: "Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I’m handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing - that’s reassuring. Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it’s just not permanent enough” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/hay-festival/9047981/Jonathan-Franzen-e-books-are-damaging-society.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter). Here, Franzen seems to suggest that the literary afficionado functions best through the printed book, particularly because of its place in time and place (close to how Walter Benjamin describes 'aura'). But, contrary to Franzen's belief in the fragility and impermanence of the digital medium, Matt Kirschenbaum, and others, have concluded that the digital--in each individual instantiation of a 'text'--is as permanent or 'fixed', as 'fixable', as anything printed (see Kirschenbaum's Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination [MIT Press, 2007]).
This may well, at the level of the byte, say, be true, but it is also to assume, as Franzen does here, that print itself is unchanging, irrevocably the same each time the printed book is encountered. This cannot be true, particularly with regard to a book's materiality which inevitably degrades, or is altered through being handled, or collects dust. For the 'text' itself (which I would regard as inseparable from the artefact's materiality)--widely understood as the words or images on the page--these change, of course. They change from imprint to imprint and from edition to edition, even if only through an updated paratext, a newly designed cover, the emendation of an earlier error, or, on a grander scale, multiple editorial interventions.
The distinction between the digital and the physical artefact ('analogue') as a distinction between the transient and the fixed, the impermanent and the stable, the immaterial and the material is not a useful one. And, just a reminder for all the post-1500 readers: it is through a detailed understanding of manuscript culture that one might better understand the nature of TEXT in its broadest sense. It is there that the idea of the eventful text is most easily investigated and analysed and there that the efforts to make human endeavour permanent can most clearly and poignantly be seen.