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Annotating Your New Book

My Changed Perceptions

When I was an undergraduate student, I always made an effort to keep my books in good shape. I never marked them up or even bent the page corners to serve as reminders. Maybe that’s because the first textbooks I used back in elementary school were borrowed from my school and I would need to return them at the end of the school year so that the lending cycle could continue for several more years. We were even required to apply book covers on our texts so that the covers remained pristine. I became rather expert at folding brown kraft paper over the cover and using scotch tape expertly so that the tape made contact only with the kraft paper and not the book’s inside cover.

When I got to college and needed to purchase books, I naturally looked for the least expensive option. Used books were cheaper than new, so I eagerly sought them out. Students would post ads on college bulletin boards for books they were selling and they would write their phone numbers on strips cut at the bottom of the ad sheet. I would tear off the strips and call the phone number to inquire about the availability of the book; if still available, we would arrange to meet at some public place on campus to exchange cash for the book. The price of annotated used books was lower, so I would purchase them, but not without thinking that the seller was a book-annotating slob. However, I discovered that the previous owner’s annotations could guide me and help me learn as I completed my own readings.

Fast forward to grad school where used books were not generally available. My readings included textbooks, books written on very focused subjects, conference proceedings, and journal articles. I marked up all my books with brief notes in the margin and I used underlined text, asterisks, question marks, X’s and other types of notations and abbreviations.  I photocopied the journal articles in the library and annotated the copies with my short-hand system of  notations. I found these annotations extremely useful in helping me learn the material and in helping me prepare for writing journal manuscripts and my thesis.  I could more easily find articles that I needed to cite by simply looking at them and recognizing the annotations. I no longer viewed annotations as a sign of the book owner’s sloppiness. Instead, I learned the instructive value of annotations and have continued to mark up my books  and articles in my professional work.

Annotate Your Copy of Digital Vertigo

As you read Digital Vertigo, use annotations to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the book. If you read the book now and make good annotations, review the annotations shortly before a discussion in your FYS course. You’ll find that the annotations will jog your memory of different points made by Andrew Keen. Bring your book with you to Opening Convocation (OC) on September 3rd and get it signed by the author at the OC. I bet he’ll be impressed by all your notes! Certainly bring your book to your first meeting with your FYS class on the afternoon of September 3rd where you’ll begin a discussion on your summer read. I bet your annotations in the margins will help you find passages in the book that will help you in your class discussions.

You can search the internet for how-to articles on annotating books. One that I like can be found at this link:

I hope you found this post to be useful. Let me know with your comments.

Next time, I’ll begin posting my thoughts on Digital Vertigo.


About Robert Mentore

Director of First-Year Seminar

One response to “Annotating Your New Book

  1. Susan Prendergast ⋅

    Welcome to Ramapo College!

    Annotating while reading has so many wonderful benefits! As mentioned, annotations help a reader to deepen his or her understanding of a text. While writing about the text you are forcing yourself to slow down and think more deeply about what you just read. Try this trick: rather than just highlighting or underlining information, write down WHY you think that section of text is significant. This forces you to think more carefully about you are reading and to be aware of your understanding as you read.

    Besides the website listed above, another great resource is the Center for Reading and Writing’s homepage here at Ramapo College. There are numerous resources contained on that page which can help you as you adjust to the rigors and demands of college reading and writing. Please visit our website often and feel free to stop by and see our center when you first arrive on campus. We are a drop in center that offers support to all Ramapo students in the areas of reading and writing.

    We look forward to seeing you in the fall!

    Susan Prendergast
    Reading Specialist
    Center For Reading and Writing
    Ramapo College of New Jersey

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