Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
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Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading
An Educator's Reading List of Contemporary Literature, Literacy, and Reading Issues. Visit us at
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Ebooks: a more civilised way of scribbling in the margins?

Ebooks: a more civilised way of scribbling in the margins? | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
E-readers are reinventing the ways books are read and annotated, writes James Bridle
GoogleLitTrips Reading List's insight:

24 January 2015

In the ongoing squabble between paper-based and digital reading, my position has long been that as long as they read, get out of their way. The consequences of having a society of significant numbers of readers who don't deserves much more of our attention. I realize that even this opinion is fraught with opportunities for counter-argument. Some other time for that.

In spite of the fact that just this week I've read multiple conflicting articles reporting "research" proclaiming that either paper or digital reading "has now been proven" to be ineffective or demonstrably more effective than the other, I do have a clear preference for my iPad's annotation resources. 


Again, I know the challenges to the benefits of  annotation and marginalia in SCHOOL OWNED resources. But, we also know the challenges involved in getting students to take and then use external notes. Some do it well; many do not and rather than appreciating the potential value in taking external notes  "if they'd only do it,", they often perceive the tediousness and /or difficulty of taking notes into a blanket cause for not liking reading. 


A couple of years ago, I was asked by a friend to make a short video he could show teachers who were just about to begin a school-wide transition to integrating iPads into their lesson planning. 


I mention that the video was made a couple of years ago because ebooks (and pedagogies) have evolved since the video was made and are even more versatile today than they were at the time.   


I decided to focus upon the benefits of ebooks for note taking and marginalia in order for teachers to create their own "teacher's copy" of a book. Teachers have always had permission to highlight and write marginal notes in paper-based books, but I was interested in proving the extra benefits of doing so in ebooks. 


You can view that video here:

I should point out that I purposely did not go deep into all of the advantages of iBook notation possibilities, not wanting to overwhelm those who would be viewing the video with a certain pre-existing anxiety over the learning curve for the iPad transition learning curve (and because what I did cover is already a couple of minutes longer than the requested length). Also, note that my reference to being able to email notes is slightly inaccurate. The entire collection of highlights and notes can not be emailed all at once. Clicking on a particular note will go to the specific page where highlighted passage can be selected and then emailed, texted, tweeted, or sent to Facebook.


We who teach know that an annotated teacher's copy of a book we're teaching is far more useful to us than a collection of externally maintained notes. The difference is proximity. Our notes are precisely where we need them to be at precisely the moment we need them.


In a sense, the rules against writing in paper-based books are similar to the rules that led many of us to believe that the proper way to punctuate book titles WAS to underline them. That was actually never the "really correct way." The proper way to punctuate book titles had been to put them in italic. The underline rule was a requirement by typing technologies which until computers could not do what typesetting technologies had long been able to do. 


Similarly, the don't write in the book rule is a requirement of school funding limitations not of book publishing standards for correct use of books.


Finally, do you remember reading The Velveteen Rabbit? If so, at the end of the story, do you remember how we could tell that the Velveteen Rabbit had been loved?


If you get my point and haven't read Chris Van Allsburg's Bad Day at Riverbend (yes, I recognize the irony of the fact that the free version of Scoop-it does not allow for proper title formatting) then you should check it out. It's a "pre-loved" book even when it's brand new!


Don't get me wrong. I do have a modest collection of autographed books that will otherwise remain in pristine condition as long as I own them.


A few thoughts regarding situations where students need to do academic reading of literature without being able to highlight and create marginal notes, and thereby find themselves running the obstacle course and too frequently counterproductive effort required  by taking, managing, and studying from external notes.


1. Tell them that if they really like highlighting and writing in margins, they are always allowed to "lose" their book. If it means much to them all they need to do is replace the lost book. 


2. Don't make them take external notes! I used to keep packets of the smallest post-its available. They are about an inch and a half square. I'd tell the kids who seemed to not be successful with note-taking to try an experiment. Just jot quick notes on post-its and stick them right on the page where the note is appropriate with just a tiny edge of the non-sticky side hanging over the page edge. Then at least the note and the reason for the note are always in the same place. All I needed was for them to remove the post-its before returning the book. This evolved into kids discovering that they could buy these small post-its in packets with multiple pads of different colors, and thereby they could even color-code their notes. For example, Different colored post-its  make it incredibly easy to visually identify notes relating to different themes being tracked while reading. 


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The Future of the Book Is the Stream

The Future of the Book Is the Stream | Google Lit Trips: Reading About Reading |
Cloud storage is paving the way for books that are sold not by title, but by time.




Well, I'm not so sure this is as good an idea as the article's author makes it out to be. But, of course I don't read many books that aren't potentially worth a second look. When I think about my relationship with my books, paper or digital, I'm always reminded of The Velveteen Rabbit. You know the story about the stuffed rabbit that over the years becomes worn with love? That "love patina" that can't be described because it's curled pages, flowing with marginalia, highlighted and'ed with scribbles and reminders of most moving or thought provoking passages.


Yeah, even my digital books are treasures. I love the ease of color-coding my highlights, writing all the marginalia, having bookmarks so I can jump to favorite passages.


I've even taken to listening to a lot of audiobooks. I miss the ability to highlight and keep marginalia, but they have a couple of advantages paper and digital text don't have that also make them "keepers."


I hate yardwork unless I'm distracted, and listening to an audio book while doing the yardwork is multi-tasking at its best for me. I rarely have time to sit down for a good six-hour read, but I can do six hours of yardwork and get through an entire book. AND, for whatever reason, my tendency to "reread" a favorite book in audio format is several times more frequent than it is with paper or digital text. 


Of course, I'm one of those people who never sold a college text book either. But, I'm a book keeper myself. Because even if I never get around to reading them again, I still like being near my old friends.


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Via nickcarman, Lisa A.F. Barefield
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