for Modern this semester, I'm reading a book about marginalia. all the bits of writing added to books, in the spaces left unprinted, and what those bits mean or used to mean or could mean. as someone who isn't usually afraid of writing in books (provided they belong to me or to a library and not to any finicky acquaintances who prefer pristine, un-dogeared books on their shelves) I'm enjoying it. finding value in the mundane is always neat, and when the mundanity also has a pinch or two of the subversive in it (writing in library books--heaven forbid!), even better.
the text is called Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books by Helen J. Jackson. her research sounds so dusty and so extensive.
ironically, I'm reading this book via ebrary, a ProQuest interface for online library book access. every few pages, where there should be some kind of awesome illustration of Jackson's examples or descriptions, the ebrary copy gives me this:
[To view this image, refer to the print version of this title.]
Jackson, H. J.. Marginalia : Readers Writing in Books. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press, 2001. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 31 October 2014. Copyright © 2001. Yale University Press. All rights reserved.
and appended to every copy-pasted segment of the text is every shred of bibliographical information you could want, in something sort of like MLA style. useful, eh? or tedious. if you'd like to copy out several passages, having all that meta-data trailing around after each one is a little much.
ebrary will also let me download this book, but I can only have it for fourteen days. and I can then only read that downloaded copy using Adobe Digital Editions. the whole internet complains about Adobe Digital Editions. it might beat ebrary by an inch or two, simple for not requiring both an internet connection and official university credentials... but really it loses by being unfamiliar, un-syncable with anything at all, and that 14-day thing... really? sure, the local library limits my book-borrowing to the same length of time, but this seems more unnecessary than that. none of these digital books needs to be returned so someone else can access it somewhere else.
our library does have a print copy of Marginalia. but it's currently checked out. if I needed, for some reason, to access its illustrations, I'd have to wait until its January due date, or track down whoever must have it checked out, or send a recall request (which is a jerkface thing to do, so nah). I can make do with the electronic version, and trust Jackson's descriptions on their own. it's fine.
I've been reading lots of old Enlightenment stuff via Google Books lately, too. which reminds me of The Art of Google Books. have I mentioned that tumblr before? it's neat. the images there, thankfully, are not only accessible via the print version of their titles.
all this reminds me of this old post and particularly this newsletter referenced there. ebrary and Google Books and Adobe Digital Editions all put up extra doors between a reader and the reading material. they are like fancy schmancy locks and chains around the covers. so many fancy locks and chains, and so many complicated keys. what happens if we lose the keys someday? if I stay in academia, I'll most likely always have the requisite university credentials for getting into these non-dusty but-yes-extensive library databases. but the infrastructure of that system might someday be just as obsolete as a floppy disk is today. and then what?