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….

danny

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