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Physical Books are Still Preferable to Ebooks

Updated on May 30, 2014

Ebook readers

Writing Response to Reading

This post is a writing response to a reading of the article: “What I Really Want Is Someone Rolling Around in the Text by Sam Anderson.

The article is all about why the concept of marginalia–making notes in the margins of a book–is still a feature not considered “seriously” in e-readers. The author believes “marking up books….is one of the Seven Undying Cornerstones of Highly Effective College Studying.”

The author believes that you can’t use hand to write in the digital books. This missing feature is what “defines reading itself.” But he admits this is something e-readers are starting to consider.

Historically, the concept of marginalia was used for “social” purposes–people would send annotated books as gifts to each other. To explain this in contemporary understanding, the writer says, it means “a kind of slow motion, long-form Twitter, or a statusless, meaning-soaked Facebook, or an analog, object-based G-chat.”

Though technology may seem like hindering “serious reading” in the 21st century because we prefer regular “social and interactivity,” marginalia may, yet, be a “bridge between online and literary culture, between focus and distraction.”

The author envisions a future where social reading might be attained if people would exchange “a stack of transparent, margin-size plastic strips” of each person’s notes of a book. But still he is aware that this is a “hopelessly clunky idea.” And here is where e-book readers come into play with this “hypercharged marginalia” improvement.

E-books are not doing a good job at “gathering ‘metadata’ about our reading” compared to physical books. As the writer cites in, this is “where our experience of the book lives.”

Amazon declared a milestone in e-marginalia: pubic note sharing for the kindle. It’s a software that will make your friend’s notes appear (if you want them to) directly on your own books.

The writer is aware that marginalia is not preferred by all but it’s still “purely value-added, appearing and disappearing at the touch of a button.”

Finally the author believes marginalia is basically needed because it is “what the culture is moving to, not away from.” He wants it “everywhere, all the time.” And that is “deliriously possible.”

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