Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

May 13, 2009

In Which I Feel Smug

I have re-enrolled at the University of Toronto in order to tack a major in Book and Media Studies onto my old degree.  This was a controversial decision for me; after all, I am already working, blogging, tweaking a novel and trying to raise a 10-month-old.  Who has time to go back to school?  Well, you know what they say: you can sleep when you’re dead.

The course instructor for my summer course has made the very interesting but not unheard of decision to get us all of our assigned readings (120 pages a week worth, I’m told) in digital format.  Though her primary motive was to lower our book costs, she also felt it was an appropriate (or maybe she said “topical”?) move in light of the fact that we will be spending some time studying “the death and possible rebirth of the book”.  Anticipating any student complaints about having to print the readings out, she recommends to us that we purchase Adobe Acrobat Professional in order to digitally annotate our readings.

I have spoken here before about the problem of annotating digital texts.  As I mentioned, I keep a stash on hand of journals in order to keep notes on texts so that I don’t have to mark up my books.  So, no problem, right?

Ugh.  Well it is one thing, it turns out, to camp out on my couch with a cup of tea, a book, and a journal to take notes.  It’s quite another thing to be tethered to a computer.  I have never in my life longed for a laptop before.  I don’t want to read in front of my computer.  I want to read in my sitting room, or in the garden, or at Madeline’s.  And another thing?  I don’t understand how anyone can read 50 pages of dry theory in a webbrowser without succumbing to the urge to pull up a tab and check Facebook.  That’s a temptation I just don’t need.  Good grief.

I’d like to reintrench myself as a supporter of actual, physical texts.  I don’t care what it costs.  This endless list of pdfs is sucking all the pleasure out of reading.

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