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I come from a family of intense readers. When the Sunday paper was delivered, we would all sit around the living room absorbed in the various sections. My younger brother used to say you could have driven a train through the room and no one would have looked up. We would read the cereal boxes at breakfast and quarrel over which one we had in front of us ("I already read the Cheerios! Give me the Grapenuts!"). And of course, we always had shelves full of books.

When I was growing up, my family moved a lot (my dad was in the Navy) and every time we moved we would pack up cartons and cartons of books. After Dad was out of the Navy and we had to pay to move ourselves, Mom would mail the books 4th class (aka book rate) to our new home, as it was cheaper than the per pound cost the movers charged. We never considered tossing the books; as my mother said, only Nazis threw away books.

Recently I saw a tweet where someone quoted statistics that most people never mark up the books they read. The tweeter was in the other camp, and saw no reason not to mark up a book. I have to admit, except for textbooks, I never marked a print book in my life, mostly because I saw marking it up as ruining it for the next person who might read it. With ebooks, of course, it depends on the eReader; some support highlighting and some don't. I do mark up my ebooks, partly because, except for husband, no one else can read them anyway, unless I loan them my actual Kindle. Also, I could always get rid of high-lighting, notes, and bookmarks if I wanted to. I mark fiction books I plan to review so I can refer to those sections or even copy and paste chunks of text. Every once in while I make a note to myself in a fiction book because I want to note something the writer did very well or very poorly.

But getting back to print, I did wonder if other people mark their books, and if so, why. How we feel about books is often a visceral thing, witness my mother's comment about Nazis. So of course, I came up with another poll. Even if you don't want to take it (you can't if you don't have an LJ account), feel free to leave a comment anyway and tell me how you feel about the print book.

Poll #1555596 Do You Mark Your (Print) Books?

Do you ever highlight or make margin notes in books?

No, never!
Only in nonfiction; I would never mark up a novel.
I've only done that a few times; I want to be able to sell or lend the book.
Sure, all the time. It's MY book, after all.

Would you buy a used book that was already marked up?

No way! It would ruin the reading experience, even for a text book.
I might buy a marked textbook or nonfiction book where someone had already marked the important parts for me.
If the used book was cheap enough, I wouldn't care that it was marked.
I never buy used books, no matter how pristine.

Do you think the rise of digital publishing will change how people feel about books?

It's bound to! If there's no book to hold, a book will get less respect.
I think it will have an impact on how people think about the paper copy. The content of the book could well become MORE important, not less.
I think people's feelings won't change. A book is a book is a book.
I hope and pray digital publishing is a fad; stop asking me about ebooks!

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( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 24th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
I would and have marked textbooks but only if I know I will be keeping it. I would never mark up a paper book but look forward to being able to mark up an ebook.
Apr. 24th, 2010 06:14 pm (UTC)
Interestingly, I have loaned textbooks to friends and gotten them back marked up, I think some folks just see them as a unique thing that doesn't work unless you can apply highlighter liberally.

I do find ebooks rather liberating as far as marking them up.

Apr. 24th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
I have to make ammendments to my answers.
1--I've marked pertinent 'thoughts' in several books, stuff I want someone, someday to know I found important. I've rarely found the urge to mark a book I ended up giving away.

2--I LOVE books that have been written in by previous readers! I would be more likely to buy a used marked copy than an unmarked one.

3--A friend, one very much in love with her Kindle, said to me, "A book is something you treasure. An ebook is for book club books you'll read once and never look at again."

Put it into pretty realistic perspective for me.
Apr. 24th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
You have an interesting perspective. I must admit I like to immerse myself in a story and find anything that distracts me from doing that, like marks on the page, to be annoying. Your Kindle-loving friend is also interesting. Having made the switch to digital reading, I have been slowly acquiring the books I love to reread as Kindle books. I look forward to being able to give away or sell the print copies— unless they're illustrated or signed. I do wish there was a way for an author to sign an ebook!
Apr. 24th, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
I do wish there was a way for an author to sign an ebook!

They'll figure it a way, I'm certain!
Apr. 24th, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
In order for people's perception of books to change, people's reading habits have to change as well.

Right now, a good sized portion of the general public don't read much of anything outside of a few huge bestsellers. (Amazingly enough, those bestsellers are ones that happen to be written by celebrity authors. Imagine that!)

eBooks might make people look at print differently, but then again they already do. People question why a glorified Word file costs so much in an eBook format. 'Never mind all of the work a publishing house does in preparing a book for release, why does it cost so much?'

That attitude is apt to cause some major trouble as eBooks gain in popularity. Pirated copies will become more prevalent, not less, as the music industry found out.

There are way too many people out there who think "electronic version = cheap cheap cheap" and won't pay attention to the fact that people actually would like to get paid for their work. Think of the people who dislike school levies "just because they feel they're overtaxed and they pay teachers too much already". Amazingly enough, those people don't have any problems receiving salaries higher than what teachers receive for doing work that is less important. (Ask the grunts if middle management ever earn their pay, and you know what sort of answer you'd get.)
Apr. 24th, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
It is sad that so few Americans read books. One thing I am hoping eReaders can do is to bring back short fiction as a popular reading form. One problem book publishers have is that fiction is a time-consuming form of recreation. People with a stack of unread books are unlikely to buy more. But if ebooks can make folks read more, they might actually buy more books.

I think pricing new books higher might fly, but if publishers and authors want to make money off their back list— the books that have been out for years and are usually available only in mass market, if at all— then they need to think of pricing those books really cheaply, like $5 or $6.

Apr. 24th, 2010 09:44 pm (UTC)
I completely agree that it is sad that so few of us read for fun. There's plenty of blame to go around, and maybe I'll write a post on that so we can all discuss it there.

One thing that the mindset of the past 30-40 years has engendered is the concept of "I don't have to pay for something". As an ex-software developer, it drives me nuts. "Hello! We work our collective butts off for a product that you want to use without paying for? How am I supposed to eat, exactly?"
Apr. 24th, 2010 08:46 pm (UTC)
My family has always been fond of books too, and I can remember those Sundays with the papers and the silence, everyone reading on their favorite spot of the saloon.
I've marked non fiction for class work, and I did the same to novels. I studied a degree in English Language and Literature, so I had to mark some of the novels we did at University. But, I was so ashamed to do it, I marked them with pencil and tried to erase everything after passing exams.
When I find something I really love in a novel, I normally copy it down in one of my multiple notebooks. I always carry a pretty notebook and a nice pen in my bag so I can always write down the pieces I love most.
Haven't put my hands on ebooks yet, but would love to get one just for my commuting, I've ruined some handbags due to the big hardcovers I carry sometimes.
Apr. 24th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
I have to admit the ability of eReaders to let you highlight text (and thus copy and paste it elsewhere) was not something I caught on to right away. Now, however, I really appreciate it. You sound like a prime candidate for an eReader.
Apr. 24th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
Yes! I'm wishing to get my hands on one this year (b-day maybe) but who knows? :)
I may need to sell a story or two before or all I may have will be a used book all marked out.
Apr. 25th, 2010 10:24 am (UTC)
It'll be interesting to see if folks attitude to marked books changes much over the next ten years or so. I suspect not.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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