Writing in the Margins (Episode 20)

In today’s show, we explore the promise of digital marginalia. Remember when you were a kid and teachers told you not to mark up your textbooks? And then you got to college, and teachers told you you had to mark up your books? There’s something about writing in the margins of a book that either scares readers away or excites them. If you’re a regular Critical Margins reader, you know I love marking up books and see a lot of promise in digital margin notes, but we have a long way to go.

We’d love to hear from you! If you enjoy our show, rate us on iTunes or Stitcher and get the word out. Leave a comment or contact us on Twitter: Kevin (@criticalmargins) or Jason (@jasonanthebeast).

Page 72 of the Aemilianensis 60 codex. The glo...
Page 72 of the Aemilianensis 60 codex. The gloss in the bottom right-hand margin of the page is the most extensive one in the codex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Current and Future States of the Publishing Industry, Part 2: Advertising, Promoting, & Marketing a Book

Book Marketing

[This is part 2 of Andrew Doty’s series on the future states of the publishing industry. This time, Andrew focuses on book promotion.]

“. . . with over 60 thousand titles published each year, it’s a basic fact that if your book doesn’t achieve ‘Gone Girl’ status within a month or so, then it’s simply gone.”

Jennifer Miller

Social Media’s Impact on Book Marketing

Naturally, change occurs in an ever-expanding web of causalities: As technology has recreated the ways books are conceptualized and realized, it has also led to a similarly diverse spectrum of marketing and publicity approaches. Traditional book printing meant traditional book marketing. Now, as more books are being published in more formats than ever, the author, publisher, and marketer can all get involved in the promotion process in new ways.

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Evernote for Book Lovers: The Best Tool For Sharing and Taking Notes

Future of Publishing
Kindle 3 moved all major operates to the botto...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many tools exist to help you clip articles, share notes, and save text as you read. But without a doubt, Evernote is the most feature-rich tool. Here are some quick ways you can make Evernote work for you.

Last week, I covered how to automate and control parts of your online and digital book reading with a tool called IFTTT. Today I want to cover Evernote, a popular note-taking app and highlight some features you can use to get started. While Evernote’s main purpose is to help you organize and take notes, keep to-do lists, and save files, it can do a lot more.

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IFTTT for Book Lovers: How to Get the Most Out of Reading Online

IFTTT for book lovers

There isn’t an easy way for book lovers to control and automate their reading habits, digital marginalia, or the books they’ve read on an e-reader. IFTTT is one solution to this problem.

Unless you do all of your reading on one platform, like Amazon’s Kindle, and never read physical books or articles on the web, it’s difficult to keep track of your reading and notes. Instead, all of the notes, reviews and progress get lost in various places.

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Friday Reads: “Ancient Marginalia: Yesterday’s Naysayers” by Cory Pressman


Culture purists have always wanted to preserve old forms of communication. Here’s why.

In today’s friday reads (“Ancient Marginalia: Yesterday’s Naysayers,” Digital Book World), author and critic Cory Pressman takes readers back to print’s “punky upstart” days: when the printed word, and written language itself, was the new technology imposing its will on the hearts and minds of a new generation.

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In the margins of books and digital culture (#edcmooc digital artifact)

Image courtesy of Flickr user Jeremy Mates [creative commons]
Image courtesy of Flickr user Jeremy Mates [creative commons]
I’m at the end of my E-Learning and Digital Cultures MOOC. For our final project, we’ve been tasked with creating a digital artifact. This artifact needs to address some aspect of digital culture and education.

For my digital artifact, I started something that I hope grows into a much larger project: Dancing in the Margins of Digital Culture. I ask these questions: how has reading changed in the midst of digital culture? How have readers returned to a time of marking up and sharing books?

I’ve written extensively about this topic before. (For examples, see here, here, here, and here.) I believe strongly in social reading online, and as tools change, these reading experiences will get better.

To make this project, I used two digital tools: Tumblr (to host the project, and for future expansion) and Storify (for the “marginalia narrative” I created). You can view each part separately, or as one large post, as linked above and below.

I’d like to hear from readers about this. What do you think of the project? Where/how can we expand it? I’d like to make this collaborative, and I’d also like to include my Dancing in the Margins pinterest board once I learn how to embed it on tumblr.

For now, this project will be an extension of Critical Margins, not a replacement. I’ll be here writing away for a while!


#EDCMOOC Digital Artifact: Dancing in the Margins of Digital Culture

What we gain and lose in the future of reading

"Digital Reading" flickr user jose.jhg
“Digital Reading” flickr user jose.jhg

Some interesting thoughts from writer Baratunde Thurston in Fast Company about the future of books and reading. Writing about what is lost versus what is gained in the switch to e-books, Thurston has this thought:

What if you could download books that had been pre-annotated? I would pay extra to read Freakonomics with commentary by Paul Krugman,The New Jim Crow with notes from editors at The Nation, or the Bible annotated by the creators of South Park. A book could always inspire new layers of meaning, but now it can host that inspiration and a slew of associated conversations.

This is a fascinating idea, and it’s one that is slowly becoming a reality. Thurston continues, talking about the technologies in place to bring the idea of an enhanced book into being:

Yet we’re doing more than digitizing words and adding tantalizing interfaces. We are networking them–and the ideas they represent. What excites me most about the future of reading is the linking, translating, co-creating, and discovering we have yet to do.

This approach to reading is like the MOOC approach in education: it’s about discovery, experimentation and re-appropriation across a vast network of like-minded people (and along the way, you can learn something and pick up new skills).

When we link what we read — whether through apps, social networks, or some new thing to come — our experience of the book becomes more than a solitary experience. The model of Thoreau reading alone in his cabin in Walden is not as relevant as it once was. Instead, the model of 18th Century readers marking up books and sharing them with each other, basically reading as a social act, is the new approach to reading. It’s just a digitized version of this today.

Now, I’ll admit that solitary reading still has a purpose, and most of my best reading experiences happen when I close off the world around me. But I love the idea of sharing my experience in real-time. It’s still difficult to do this, but many new book sharing tools like findings and annotary make it easy to share with like-minded readers.

Maybe it’s still too early to say we’ve returned to our social reading roots, and maybe it’s a technology or access issue that prevents this utopian vision from happening. Still, readers who care about books and the power of a good story are ready to share their reading and hear from others.

Friday Reads: “The Art of Marginalia” by Jocelyn Kelley and “The Psychology of Books” by Dell Smith

friday reads banner

There were many articles I enjoyed reading this week. The first one relates to my Wednesday post about marginalia, and it comes from Jocelyn Kelley in the Huffington Post. Kelley appreciates marginalia because it opens up a book’s possibilities and transforms the book from a valuable and pristine artifact to the book as personal diary:

Finding a book with personal notes that someone has scribbled in the margins feels like a gift. It increases the value of the book, in my opinion. These notes have changed the book from its original state (novel, biography, self-help tome) into a diary of sorts. How did certain passages resonate with a reader? What quotes did he or she find so inspiring that it needed to be highlighted? (“The Art of Marginalia“)

An example she uses in the article: Jack Kerouac’s copy of Heny David Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers has this passage underlined and checkmarked: “The traveller must be born again on the road.” Nice.

A person’s marginalia might reveal something about their thought process, but what about the psychology of how we choose what to read? Beyond the Margins author Dell Smith discusses this in his article “The Psychology of Books“:

Your desire to buy and read a book uncovers the dark hinterland of your soul. Your choices are often a reflection of your id. I can spend hours online or in a bookstore browsing the shelves (virtual and real). In person, I’ll first check the new releases (fiction, mostly) and then do a deep dive into the stacks, sometimes A to Z.

The act of choosing your next book reveals something deep, yet simple, about your personality, your desires and wishes.


I also shared several articles on Twitter throughout the week. Here are my top favorites:

Is the book a crucial cultural artifact, or just an outdated container for content? by Mathew Ingram in @paidcontent

Will Gutenberg Laugh Last? by Nicholas Carr in @roughtype

A Calm Place to Think: On Reading the Classics by Guy Patrick Cunningham in @the_millions

Better Books, Better Brains. by Lauren O’Neal, @laurenoneal

Visions Of Moby by Levi Asher (@asheresque) at LitKicks.com

I’d love to hear from you about your own Friday Reads. What articles have you filled up you Kindles and tablets with this week? Follow me on Twitter to share your own favorite longform reading for the week.