Writing in Books? Easier When It's Not Real

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Posted on 01/15/2011 by Jim

I've purchased my first electronic book.1 While we could debate unendingly about the benefits and drawbacks of electronic versus hard copy, let's not start. I simply wanted to take a minute to note a particular change in my reading behavior: highlighting and marginalia.

When it comes to hard copy, I'm overly possessive and unfortunately obsessed with not damaging the book. This results in the elimination of any possibility of marking in the book. Silly, I'm sure, but even when I want to, some primal protective instinct stays my hand before I can mark.

This is obviously not a problem with the electronic form. I can highlight and note to my heart's content, and then go back and erase or modify if I want to later. Because I am no longer causing a physical change, I am no longer wary.

Whether this has any lasting affect on my manner of reading, or any positive implications for future schooling, remains to be seen. For the moment it's just another of those little interactions that change along with technology.

1. I almost used the term "ebook" but restrained myself, having developed a deep distaste for e-anything (email excepted, of course, as it has become a modern word). There seems to be a generational divide in our culture over the idea of e-things. I've noticed that older people (ambiguously defined) like to refer to e-this or e-that. E.g. e-blast or e-publication. Younger folk, on the other hand, don't see the "electronic" in e as something in particular need of highlighting. This probably comes from growing up within the electronic realm, and thus perceiving little difference between something electronic its physical counterpart.

Now, as the "electronic book" which began this little discussion demonstrates, sometimes it is necessary to note the difference between the digital and non-digital. This is usually true for descriptive or illustrative purposes and thus the full word "electronic" can be used as an adjective.