Thursday, November 01, 2012

Notes on the usefulness of electronic books in reviewing

Using an electronic book in the review process is both more helpful and more problematic. Problematic, because it does not always (and in this case not) give page numbers. Helpful, because location is a much more precise notation, which leads directly to the sentence in question. Helpful, because it allows for quick searches, and it answers several questions to the book quickly, such as “how many times is this mentioned, and in which chapters?” or “where does the author use this theory?”

On the other hand, certain ways of organising the text, such as an endnote system for references, becomes confusing. The electronic medium resists the quick skipping from the chapter in question to the point in the back of the book where the footnote is positioned, and at least in this instance, the electronic text did not call up the endnote from its position in the chapter. Also, the numbers of the endnotes were not searchable, so it was very tricky to go from a number on an endnote to its position in the text. If the reference system had been anything which demanded the name of the author (APA or MLA for instance) put into the running text, it would have been much easier to go from reference to point in the text, but using endnotes the usefulness of an electronic text was reduced. Apart from these problems, the distribution of electronic books is still very limited, as it cannot be given away except as a loan, unless it’s bought as a gift.

This means that an editor can’t receive a book, look it over, decide on a reviewer and pass it on. The different systems of electronic book loans are not a good option, as one of the attractions of reviewing books is to be able to keep the book afterwards. A limited-time loan of an electronic book does not cover that reward. On the other hand, if the publishers allowed editors the right to pick and donate electronic books permanently to reviewers, the distribution of the book would be much quicker and more precise.

Today books need to be shipped over long distances, a process which delays the reviewing further. With electronic copies, the book could reach a reviewer at any internet connection, when ever they logged on. After working on the most recent book, I lean heavily towards making the electronic book the standard for reviewing, but with certain changes in the standards of reference systems, in the standards of electronic books, and a better and more liberal distributing system which retains the benefits of the physical paper copy.

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