The difficulties of looking up a quotation in a paper book
I love paperbooks!
Okay, can I complain now?
I publish quotations pretty much every day (among other things) in one of my other blogs, The Measured Circle.
I’ve collected those quotations over time. Back in the day, I didn’t have a computer, just a…what were those called?…oh yeah, typewriters. That meant I couldn’t do things like italics and bold, so I tended to use all capitals for those (that was before that meant shouting on the internet, although it did communicate emphasis).
One problem, though, is I don’t know which one it was in the original work.
So, I was setting up a quotation for publication several days away (I’m going to have less computer access from July 5 to July 9, due to a family thing…I still expect to have a post a day in ILMK, and my guess is that I will stay on top of things…but I’m going to try to write ahead a bit). I wanted to go back and confirm the quotation.
I had the source listed as Gulf by Robert A. Heinlein.
First, I didn’t know which book that was…I knew it was a short story. If I’d had that book on my Kindle, I could have searched for it, but that wasn’t an option.
Fortunately, I could look it up at
which I highly recommend.
That told me that it was in Assignment Earth. I went into my library in my house and had no trouble locating it (my books are alphabetized, which probably won’t surprise you).
My copy is an old Signet paperback (it originally cost twenty-five cents…I think I paid a dime). It’s a November 1954 first edition paperback…in lousy condition. It’s literally falling apart…only the back of the cover is even attached anymore (the front and the spine are there, but they are hanging loose). The ends of the pages are shredding.
When people talk about being worried about their e-books being available to them years from now, this is the kind of thing I want to show them. Paperbooks, especially ones that were thought of as ephemera (and I read a lot of those), decay. Yes, I have hardbacks that are over one hundred years old, but paperbacks are often not printed to last.
So, I had the book, I had the story name. I gingerly opened the book, and started flipping through…page by page. I’m a good skimmer, so it didn’t take that long to go through 45 pages to find it. I also had to put on my reading glasses from the Dollar Store. I don’t normally wear glasses or carry them around with me, but this text was small.
Once I found it, I had to carefully balance it open (so I didn’t degrade the book any more than necessary) and compare it.
Needless to say, that was a lot harder than doing a search, clipping the section, and copying and pasting.
I love paperbooks, but I do have to treat them somewhat like fragile invalids…lovingly, but with caution and recognition of their special limitations (and strengths).
In my opinion, academia and research generally will be greatly advanced when e-books are used more extensively.
Disagree? Like putting those little sticky flags in paperbooks to mark things? Feel free to let me know with a comment to this posting.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.