The Old and the New By Mattie Conley

I just finished reading the book American Gods by Neil Gaiman. The crazy cast of characters, gripping plot, and Gaimain’s unique style made it a really great read, but there is one thing that could have made it better: annotations.

I read American Gods on a Kindle, so I was unable to mark up the book, which (I was somewhat surprised to find) really annoyed me. When I was younger, I hated the idea of writing in a book; I loved the clean look of pristine pages. Now however, I’ve happily fallen into the habit of marking up the books I read for class, and American Gods marked one of the first books that I’ve read for fun that I felt a strong desire to annotate. There were passages I saw that really stood out and details I noticed that I was sure would combine in some important ways (I was often right, but my predictions were often at least a little off). I would have loved to put pen to paper in the margins of the book, to respond and analyze and highlight, but on the Kindle my ability to do so was essentially nonexistent.

There are benefits to both physical books and electronic readers, but books hold the definite upper-hand in terms of the ability to annotate. Electronic readers have come a long way, and do offer benefits like Internet access that readers can use to add to their reading experience. However, there are certainly improvements left to be made. Hopefully, future devices will be designed so that people can more easily connect with the text. I certainly wouldn’t mind a feature that would allow me to add comments in the margins my digital books, for example.

The rise of the Internet age has spurred fears that the era of print will eventually come to an end and that books will fade away, a point which I found ironic in connection to the themes of American Gods. We are at an intersection between the old and the new, but that does not mean that one must eliminate the other. There are ways to reconcile the two, if we are open-minded and creative enough to find them.

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