Kevin Charles Redmon wonders whether the rise of the e-book means the end of marginalia:
[Sam Anderson...], master practitioner of literary journalism, used the Times Sunday Magazine's new Riff column to observe that marking up a book's pages gave him "a way to not just passively read but to fully enter a text, to collaborate with it, to mingle with an author on some kind of primary textual plane." [...]
At present, annotating an e-book with a stylus is about as handy as marking up a Norton anthology with a Crayola. The amount of clicking required to two-finger type a note using the Kindle's mini keyboard is even worse. But as technology (and perhaps our patience) improves, Anderson envisions a kind of free global bazaar of e-marginalia, so that you can read Hemingway, while also reading–in the margins – Gary Shteyngart's thoughts on reading Hemingway. Or your sister's. Or Michiko Kakutani's. [...]
"I want, in short, marginalia, everywhere, all the time," Anderson concludes. Welcome to the twenty-first century, kids, where even reading is social, networked activity.
Anderson is among the literary vanguard's optimists, though. [...]
The argument against Anderson's position suggests that marginalia are inherently part of an individual reader's dialogue with the text and are distinctly unsuited to the sort of 'sharing' that Kindle readers are treated to when their e-reader underlines passages in a text that have been highlighted by other Kindle users.
I think it's important to remember that it's still very early days for the mass-market e-book. Over time, if the trend of sharing your preferences across your social network and beyond continues, we'll almost certainly see greater granularity built into the software used in e-readers to share marginalia, allowing you to decide whose comments you want to subscribe to and/or limiting the extent to which your own margin notes are shared with others.
I'd say the bigger problem is that with so many different e-reader platforms and DRM schemes it'll be harder than it needs to be to standardise a cross-platform means of sharing this sort of data, unless Amazon or Apple or whoever manages to dominate the market to the point that they can impose their standard on everyone else. Amazon probably have the best chance of establishing a critical mass of e-book readers, but look again in a couple of years, when the iPad has some real competition and the tablet computer market segment has filled out a bit, and the picture could look very different.
[Via The Browser]