An article in The New York Times ran yesterday on the fate of margin notes in a digital era. Citing personages who reveled in making such notations from Mark Twain to Charles Darwin, the article ponders what will become of these small reflections and historical insights once there are no more pages on which to write. Once again we find ourselves at an uncertain juncture regarding how we are to preserve electronic observations, which seem almost as ephemeral as ideas themselves.
“People will always find a way to annotate electronically,” said G. Thomas Tanselle, a former vice president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and an adjunct professor of English at Columbia University. “But there is the question of how it is going to be preserved. And that is a problem now facing collections libraries.”
The devil’s in the details, is it not? We better work this out soon or we’ll have no record of who has signed his book. My guess is that he’s upgraded to a Kindle by this point.