Here and elsewhere, there have been various discussions of exciting projects made newly possible with digitized eighteenth-century texts. I’m wondering, though, what strategies other people have developed for just reading them.
I have come up with three options. First, you can read them on a computer screen. I have done this by opening the ECCO document in the top half of the screen and my Endnotes program on the bottom half, taking notes as I read. I have managed to get through several novels and travel narratives this way, but it’s not so easy to sit at the computer reading for long stretches and a far cry from curling up in a chair with a book, a pencil, and sticky notes. Reading directly on the computer screen for that long can also trigger a migraine for me. Alternatively, then, you can print out the documents and read them like you would anything else. This, however, gets expensive, generates much clutter, and feels wasteful. Further, since eighteenth-century books have so many fewer words on the page than most modern books, you get a very bulky document that can’t easily be carried around. The third possibility would be to transfer the files to an e reader. When I first ordered my Kindle, I thought I would be able to convert ECCO documents to PDFs and load them onto the Kindle. The first generation Kindles, though, did not do well with PDFs. Sometime they worked, but other times they would come out blurry and/or tiny. I have heard that the new Kindles support PDFs better, but that still leaves the problem of taking notes. Profhacker recently reported on an iPad app that allows you to highlight on PDFs. I was intrigued by this possibility until I saw a guy using an Entourage Edge in the waiting room of the doctor’s office. He turned out to work for Entourage and gave me and another curious patient a demonstration of this device. With the Entourage, it looks like you can load a PDF or a Word document and actually take notes on the document. You can then access only the pages with notes on them, saving the tedium of having to flip through the entire document. The Entourage is heavier and bulkier than an iPad or a Kindle, but I’m thinking it might be a good way to read ECCO documents, manuscripts, and even student papers. It has the grayish contrast screen that I like so much in the Kindle and it has a USB port for easy transfer of PDF files.
I’m interested in hearing about how others may have solved this problem before I invest in yet another electronic device.