Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Marginilizing marginalia

On this podcast they discussed the topic of marginalia (writing in the margins of a book) based on this piece (which alludes to how the rising popularity of e-readers "means the decline of marginalia... much to the dismay of many book lovers, librarians and historians."

Up front I'll admit: I was never one for that, but that may be mostly because my thoughts when reading a book were not pithy enough to fit in that modest space.

(That's why it takes me so long to finish a book: I read slowly to start with, and then my mind drifts on its own, and I could never attempt to capture that in the margin.)

Not to mention not wanting others who may read it later to come across it.


Ultimately that's merely romanticizing the notion of books. Not that there's anything wrong with that, per se, but in an era where more personal thoughts are readily available than any time in the history of our species, it's difficult to believe that somehow because people won't necessarily have a paper page on which to jot down whatever reaction one had to a bit of text on said page that it intrinsically suggests those thoughts will be lost forever (or even if they are that it is necessarily any great loss).

Somehow the world got by before Gutenberg invented the printing press and marginalia could even exist; I doubt the Kindle will prove the death knell of having any insight into what someone reading some text thought of it.


Having the marginalia done electronically will merely eliminate the element of crappy handwriting perhaps obscuring what the person actually wrote. Perhaps that's the loss: any aspect of handwriting analysis that might reveal something about the person that the words would not.

1 comment:

  1. OMG, people who write in books drive me insane. It's like coloring with crayons on a Renoir. The book should stay "as is" for future readers. I won't even dog-ear the pages. I never make notes about what I read. I just go and investigate more elsewhere, or I write about what I read in my blog. But writing in a book? It's just not done.


So, what do you think?