Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Respect Your Books By Writing In Them 

Great Wynia manifesto Lifehack Your Books: Dogear, Writing In Books, and Apologizing to Librarians via BoingBoing today. I'd paraphrase, but the original post is dense, clear, and personally resonant, so let's start with the meat of the matter:
The first taboo I think everyone should just plain get over is the taboo of writing in books. I write in most of my books. Notes about the content, things the content reminds me of, etc. When you just plain write in the margins, inside the cover, etc. there’s no way the notes for that content will get lost. They’ll forever be attached to the text they refer to.

The second is the folded over page corner (dogear). I know some of you just tuned me out as a heretic, but I dogear pages. Worse than that, I dogear for 2 different purposes. I use the top right corner of the right page as my bookmark. I also use the bottom corner of a page that contains something interesting as a marker as well. That lower dogear is often accompanied by notes written in the margin. By folding over the bottom corner of interesting pages, I can quickly look at a book of mine and see how useful I find it. It also lets me flip through a book I haven’t used in a while and easily find the bits I’m likely to want to find again...

Worth noting that Wynia makes a clean and much-needed exception for library books...the postmodernistic phenom of the dissolving relationship between book and mind thus becoming inherently in tension with the idea of the communial copy of the single text. But that's why neither downloaded text nor libraries are supposed to make the concept of book ownership moot -- because only in owned hard copy, the bottom corners fat with new discursivity and reader-value, can we truly READ as we should, an approach which practically mandates Wynia's methodology, or somthing quite like it.

Well, that, and the lovely smell of the new book.

In this model, then, for true active/dialogic readers like we intelligentsia, the library can exist as a place for first-look -- a community space where exposure occurs, that we might then make careful decisions about future purchase, however seldom.

Incidentally, I have pretty much always used the two-tiered dogear method Wynia desribes -- top of the page for placeholder, bottom as a semi-permanent flag or marker for material of relevance -- and do not think it was ever taught to me so much as evolved -- a convergent evolution not so odd when you consider that there are only two corners per page available, and few-to-no other ways to make the book from outside call to page and paragraph for later reference, revisit, and rehash.

Also worth noting: ten percent of the grade for the Modern American Culture class I taught at NMH years ago was based entirely on in-book notation, both presence and quality. In truth, this was partly to pre-empt resale, since I wanted students to think of their books as (once read) part of an ongoing and potentially permanent dialog with the world of ideas.

But the rest of the point was to engender the kind of active engagement that underlies any method such as Wynias.

In the end, it doesn't matter which comes first, habit of mind or habit of bookcare; truly, one cannot live without the other.

From the collegiate concept of active pencil-in-hand reading -- the professorial ideal too often underutilized by students, and almost always dropped by readers after college -- to the relatively new concept of the hypertextual, in which readership becomes a part of authorship via choice and commentary, much of the way our brave new world sees the word practically insists upon such tactics.

Another way of saying so: Wynia suggests this is book-respect, but as his title ("lifehack") implies, it is equally mind-respect.

Kudos to author Wynia, then...but even MORE to those who pass/are passing it along with (not so ironically) a similar kind of metanotation to that described, except in digitext version. For what else is a high-order blog for, in the end, but exactly this, save in small-byte form? Annotate below, fellow read/write/r, and dogear to your heart's content.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:25 PM |

Funny -- I use the same dogear method myself. Must be one of those innate, independently-evolving practicalities.

And it was hard last night, reading the book I'll be giving my mom for X-mas, not to scribble marginalia (though really - maybe a conversation with her daughter would be more valable than any illusion of 'newness')
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