Book Affordances

I haven’t been buying many books in the past couple of years, mostly due to lack of funds. But as well as web-native docs online, there are also loads of books around as PDFs.

If they’re associated with a particular project I’m working on, I’ll drop them in a folder there, typically ~/[project]/references. If not they should get dumped in ~/Documents though many end up forgotten in ~/Downloads.

If I want to find a particular piece of information, naturally Google would be my first choice. But then I know pretty much what books I’ve got, a rough idea of their contents, roughly where to find them – I’ve got a few hundred physical reference books on a handful of topics, mostly on the same bookcase.

So it’s sometimes just as quick for me to find a particular piece of information in a physical book as it is online. A bonus is, if I’m thinking about a particular subject, the book can sit on the desktop for even quicker reference. Flicking through can also yield useful pointers to related material.

Now although a good local indexer/search tool could allow me quick access to info in the PDF books I have, I don’t know of any tool that allows the same kind of convenience as the bookshelf.

A big part of it is that I can remember what books I have, a good associative memory goes into the head when the physical book is used.

So how could PDFs – not only the books but also the countless papers that pile up with opaque filenames, be given the same kind of affordances as the physical books.

Something to think about….


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