Leaving Footprints in Books









Found an interesting post at the Daily Poetics blog, all about the debate about whether or not to write in books.  He calls people who hate the idea “Preservationists”, and people who defend writing in books “Footprint Leavers”.

I’m definitely a Footprint Leaver in my non-fiction books, and don’t feel guilty about it at all.  I only do it to books I own personally and not in library books or those I borrow from friends.  This is why I rarely borrow or loan books, and why I spend far too much money at Amazon!

Non-fiction books are classrooms in the hands, and can also be learning diaries when you write in the margins.  I underline sentences, but write next to them as well, much more useful than only underlining.

I have no problem with re-reading books I have written in long ago.  It’s easy to ignore my scribbles and lines and think about the text again in a fresh way.  But it is also useful to build on thoughts I had years ago and make lateral connections between my old and present self that would otherwise have been left unseen.  To inherit a book from a loved one with writing in the margins is a blessing, as it brings you closer to the previous owner, who has now gone.

As for writing in books lowering the value of them.  So what?!  I think buying a book to not read, but only to sell, is more sacrilegious than buying a book to devour and learn from.  Acquiring art and knowledge to treat merely as a commodity is an affront to learning to transform the world to the betterment of others, and not just to boost our own bank accounts.


3 thoughts on “Leaving Footprints in Books

  1. Think of all the glosses, remarks, and commentary in old volumes of mathematics, history, or science. Who wouldn’t want to read Newton’s or Darwin’s margin notes? Who wouldn’t enjoy Shaw’s side-scribbles on someone else’s play? I have a collection of essays heavily noted and scored by my father when he was in teacher’s college – that’s worth something to me, and not just for sentimental reasons.

    For that matter, who wants blog posts without comments?

  2. Hello Wendell,

    Thanks for the message. You are absolutely right. Seeing what others thought about a text enrichens the reading of it for others. Seeing the notes of “big thinkers” such as some that you mention would be fascinating. I can’t claim that my notes would be as interesting to anyone else, but at least it helps me remember what I’ve just read 5 minutes after I’ve put the book down!


  3. During the time when I was at university in the mid-90s they designed a lot of non-fiction books with extra big margins. I wonder if it was for that reason.

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