Sometimes I need more than one copy of a book. Usually fiction. Almost always when it’s an amazing read.
AN E-READER ANNOTATION MINI-MANIFESTO
I start everything now as an ebook, though back in the days of long commutes, the audiobook ruled. When the narrative is crisp and alluring, I need to mark it up. Dissect it and see how it ticks. It’s the analytical mind in me. Sure, my Nook lets me highlight words and phrases, but it’s not the same. I need to dog ear pages. Scribble in the margins. Basically mess with it.
That’s when I purchase a second copy. I’ll zip around to spots I remember. My goal is almost always: “How did this writer pull this off?” Was it a subtle nuance of the narrator’s voice? Verb choice? Sentence length? I need to know. I circle and scribble all over the thing.
I recall once (and this will date me) when I had the notion to write a screenplay for The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells. This was about a year before the Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando version hit theaters (they beat me to the punch). I had taken a pencil (because this was a treasured version of the story) and went to work blocking scenes. Now I wish I hadn’t because I have plenty of erasing to do.
The one book I have in nearly every form is The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. I started with an audiobook. Then bought the paperback (to mark up for a college paper). Finally, I chanced upon a hard bound copy heavily discounted. All I need now is an ebook and my collection is complete.
Am I alone in this? Does anyone else out there snap up multiple copies of books?
While attending a young adult workshop at the SDSU Writer’s Conference, I gleaned an interesting tidbit. Someone in the audience brought up the idea of a protagonist in his early twenties at college. Our presenter nixed it. College bound folk are inundated with textbooks and studies. Often, they don’t have time to read.
That was the case for me. College killed my reading instincts. Before that, I read like a fiend. Afterward, I hardly picked up a book. Magazines drew me in, mostly because of the brevity of the articles. I remember distinctly my first serious novel that I read form cover to cover: The Alientist.
I continued to write, yet my reading suffered. Finally audiobooks came to my rescue. I read, or listened, while commuting. This worked well, but I yearned for that actual visual experience. (Try writing down a clever quote from a spoken text. Not as easy as it seems.)
Then my wife purchased an iPad for my last birthday. I checked out the ebook options. There were limitless. Trouble was, the iPad as so heavy. (I have and iPad 1, but even the iPad 2 is weighty.) Meanwhile, my reading had picked up. I am addicted to several young adult series. My latest favorite is Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.
Much like other YA books, this one is a tome. Reading it makes my arms hurt. I tend to read in bed with the book held above me. So my mind drifted back to ereaders. I checked the whole spectrum. I didn’t need all the fancy web-browsing and apps. (I have an iPad, after all). What I wanted was a basic ereader that was very light. Enter the Nook.
I adore this product. The eink is amazing. It reads just like my paper book. The buttons make page turning easy and my arms never grow tired. Finally, it’s created a renaissance in reading for me. Just as the iPod revitalized my love of music, so has the Nook spurned me to be a more voracious reader.
Long live the ereader.
I’m sure you’ve all heard of this new invention: the folding book. Recently certain sects have developed this new format where, instead of our beautiful papyrus scroll, the text is scribbled onto tiny pages. One after the other. Plus, these people write in recto and verso, on both sides of the paper!
Personally, I love strolling through the library and choosing just the right scroll from the stacks. I know where to start reading and where to stop. The scroll is simple. You unroll as you read. Need to take a break? Then simply leave the scroll at the point you stopped.
You can’t do this with to codex. Instead you need some sort of tool to mark your position. Additionally, readers can skip around the text, going from the middle to the start and then to the end. Insanity. The author did not intend for that sort of haphazard reading. You might as well cut up scrolls and toss them on the floor.
Obviously, reading will decline. Scholars shall not tolerate these hard bound, page flipping codices. Our precious knowledge, stored up for centuries on scrolls, will slip away. Readers attention will decrease, tempted as they are by the ability to skip to the end of the story.
I say we do whatever we can to halt the codex in its tracks. Bring back fine papyrus scroll work—the only method to publish a scholarly work.
Think this is absurd? Look closely at what’s happening today with books. Manuscripts have survived from scrolls, to codices, to paper books. Words are ideas that cannot die, no matter the publication format.