Author, Researcher, or Creator

John RodzvillaFollow

Affiliation of Author, Researcher, or Creator

School of the Arts


Writing, Literature and Publishing


John Rodzvilla

Resource Type


Publication, Publisher or Distributor

Der Text und seine (Re)Produktion

Publication Date


Brief Description

When Gerard Genette identified the paratexts that surrounded what he called the naked text, he defined how the presentation of a book creates a network of relationships both within the text and to the larger environments that interact with that text. In the years since Genette first proposed his theory, text has moved the printed page to a variety of digital structures, which provide new ways of interaction. Even in these new structures, the essential features of paratext—what Genette and Maclean identified as spatial, temporal, substantial, pragmatic and functional[i]—are still present and influence how we interact with an ebook. From the way networks chop up large text files into smaller packets for delivery to the way HTML adds a semantic layer to text in the source code, these digital structure need to be considered when thinking of the criticism of the work. One need only look at Mark Marino’s Living Will[ii], which includes communications from the narrator to other characters hidden in the source code to begin to see how we need to look below the text on the screen to understand a literary work. This paper proposes to look at e-readers like the Amazon Kindle to understand how the added layers of interactions create new meaning to the text.

In order to render the text for the reader an e-reading device must connect with a digital distributor, download the text over a network and display it on screen. These actions correspond with one of the proposed architectures for the Internet of Things (IoT), what Peña-López et al. define as a paradigm in which computing and networking capabilities are embedded in any kind of conceivable object.[iii] Through this IoT lens we can begin to understand how text is (re)produced on a digital reading device only after passing through different interactions of the e-reader with the world. Using the IoT framework we can identify three of these layers of interaction: the application layer, the network layer and the presentation layer.

When a reader accesses a text on an e-reading device, that text must pass through the network (online protocols and delivery) and application (rendering software) layers before appearing in the perception layer which not only renders it on screen, but also connects the physical buttons, cameras, microphones, GPS sensor, etc. to the ebook in order to both display and collect information while in use.

This paper will work through how these three layers of IoT architecture in an e-reader reflect the features of paratext defined by Genette and Maclean and identify where the different interactions with software alter the production the text in ways that are different from print.

[i] Genette, Gérard, and Marie Maclean. "Introduction to the Paratext." New Literary History 22, no. 2 (1991): 261-72. Accessed March 13, 2021. doi:10.2307/469037.


[iii] I. Peña-López, Itu Internet Report 2005: The Internet of Things, 2005.


paratext, publishing, internet of things, e-readers

Recommended Citation

Rodzvilla, John. "The Digital Architexture of E-readers. How the Internet of Things Adds Layers of Meaning to Text". Der Text und seine (Re)Produktion, edited by Niklas Fröhlich, Bastian Politycki, Dirk Schäfer and Annkathrin Sonder, Berlin, Boston: De Gruyter, 2023, pp. 55-68.

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