The iPad in the Library

For the past two weeks (still early days) I have been using an IPad to start work on research for a new book. A very superficial part of me thought that the mere fact of writing on something sexy would make my book more so – not convinced of that now, but I am finding the whole PDF library really transformative in terms of my note taking and thinking. When I wrote my thesis, I transcribed all the sources I was quoting onto paper, often illegibly, made a lot of mistakes, and often forgot to write down the page number. With the next book I worked on, I used a laptop to write my notes, but the combination of over-zealous autocorrect and my ham-fisted touch-typing made those quotations quite unreliable too. That meant that in each case I had to spend weeks trawling around in libraries after I had finished, trying to find the original quotation and check it. This time round, it’s all different because I am finding PDFs of all the texts I want to quote from online, and downloading them into iBooks so I have my own little specialist library – in this case, of arcane 18c elocution manuals. I get the PDFs from ECCO (it’s a pain you can only do 250 pages at a time, usually shorter than the whole book) or from the ones digitised by Google. It would be brilliant if I could write my own notes in the margins of the pages, but I don’t think that’s possible with the files I have. But it all means that I have a permanent record of the edition I’ve used, and the page numbers are stable. In my pre-iPad life I would habitually transcribe too little, and then realise once the book had gone back to the stack that I had missed out the bit that I subsequently realised was most useful. Not any more. I am not a habitual enthuser about technology, (or more correctly, i don’t think I have ever done it before) but this is making a real difference to the way I work.

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About Abigail Williams

Lecturer in English, University of Oxford, Fellow of St. Peter's College.
This entry was posted in ebooks, reflection. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The iPad in the Library

  1. patlockley says:

    http://evernote.com/
    Look for this app – Academic people I know swear by it (I think it can annotate PDFs as well)

    • Abigail Williams says:

      Have just downloaded it – thanks, Pat!

      Dr Abigail Williams, University Lecturer and Lord White Fellow and Tutor in English, St Peter’s College, Oxford OX1 2DL

  2. Abigail Williams says:

    Thanks – just downloaded it .

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