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Screens, Paper, and Paying Attention in the Digital Age

January 19, 2012

So, Apple is going to get into textbooks…

I’m starting graduate school in library and information science. Digging into the reading for my classes. So much reading! Much of the assigned reading is online or in PDF form, as the coursework covers both traditional-physical bookshelf-space libraries, and management of digital information storage. So, can do reading on a computer screen. Which has its good points and its bad points.

I miss paper. I think better about what I read if I have a pen or a highlighter in my hand, spreading ink around and marking things up.

I think multicolored highlighters got me through high school. And college! Or, at least, got me used to learning in both environments, past the overwhelmed and bewildered first stages where everything was new (and kind of alarming.)

I had a system: green for new vocab, orange for thematic main points and either yellow or pink for the details that relate to the main points. With plenty of space for writing in the margins: “really?” “see also: this other reading” “nut graf!” (I am a journalist’s daughter.)

One class down, initial panic over assignments has sort of subsided. There’s a lot of reading to get done! But it’s interesting library science stuff, and policy, and the mysterious guts of libraries. Will repeat process of alarm/bewildering/boggling tonight, in my other class for the semester. Of this I have no doubt.

I have a snazzy new laptop, nice and light. And every inch of my body is grateful that I do not have the textbooks I remember hauling around in high school! (I know there were a few days I was surprised I was upright.)

But screen reading is passive, ephemeral. Not to mention, monochromatic. So what’s the solution? Printing lots and lots of paper? Awkward, environmentally unsound, and potentially expensive.

Still need to figure this out… How to take notes without breaking the bank or killing tons of trees… how to get what I want and need from the technology available.  And it seems like the sort of thing a librarian should be able to solve. Even a slightly perplexed neophyte like me.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 19, 2012 10:28 am

    Nothing digital will truly replace the naturalness and satisfaction of marking things up by hand with real markers, but in the spirit of not wastefully printing things I found you this roundup of PDF annotation software that may help spruce up your onscreen experience:

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