Tag Archives: Rare Books Room

How to read a book now

Sometime in the late 1970s, I was sitting in the Rare Books Room of the Cambridge University library.  I had just come back from lunch.  

I was reading a leather bound book published in 1588, and all of a sudden and for the very briefest moment, I imagined myself immensely fat, covered in grease, and sitting on a groaning wooden chair that seemed ready to burst.

And then the sensation was gone.  If you are inclined to this sort of thing, and I am not, you would say that I made psychic contact with the person who owned this book, that I was for a split second an Elizabethan.

I don’t think this.  At all.  I recall the moment, because for all our differences, this book owner and I had a lot in common.  At least when it came to the activity called reading.  We held something made out of paper in our hands and gazed upon the page.  We may have been separated by half a millennium and differences of every imaginable kind, but when it came to books, we were one.

And now even that has passed.  Sometime last week I started to read books in a new way.  I buy them from Amazon.  I have them installed on my iPad.  i underline and makes notes as I go.  These notes are then transferred to the Amazon site, where I can visit them anytime and add comments.  (It is a little bit as if the book falls away.  The focus of my attention is now the highlights and notes.)

It’s truly mind boggling.  We can go to http://kindle.amazon.com and they are all there.  Best of all, all this content is clippable so it can be ported it to Zotero (highly recommended) or a research document or a blog post.   

My Elizabethan pal, the very fat one, would be thunderstruck at this development.  I am hoping for another moment of transportation so I can tell him all about it.