Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Rant on Books

I love books, not so much when they are piled on my floor for the lack of bookshelf space or stack on top of other books for the same reason, but I suppose that is my fault. I should either quit buying books (not happening) or start buying bookshelves.

I also love pages. While I am the satisfied owner (so far) of the Logos Scholar's Library which was a requirement for me (and a couple,  and while I love the searching capability of it, I just do not  like not having pages. It just bothers me. Call me old-fashioned. But I can't wait until the computers of today consign my Logos to spot on the shelf along my copy of Windows 3.11. Ink on paper however will still be technologically viable. And the battery won't run down in the midst of a fascinating passage.

But neither of these bothers me as much as two other things.

First, endnotes ... They are a sin against the reader. They require a colossal waste of time, energy, and concentration inasmuch as one has to flip to the back of the book to search for the note, inevitably which numbering restarts in the current chapter, requiring the reader to remember the number of the chapter you are currently reading, something I rarely pay attention to, since I don't think there is great learning value in chapter numbers. I may be missing a point here or there at times by this habit of ignoring chapter numbers, but I have this sneaking suspicion that the point of the chapter is not found in the number.

However, if you are going to sin so egregriously in writing by using endnotes, humor us with two thoughtful (and easy) concessions. First, do not restart your numbering at each chapter. If you have 349 notes in your book, that is okay (in fact, it is perhaps preferable since it lets us know you are not "sucking this out of your thumb" [Thanks for that metaphor, Dr. Combs, from whom I first heard it]). Our Arabic numeral system will handle "349" just fine (as opposed to the Roman numeral system where "CCCXLIX" would indeed be cumbersome).

Second,if you are going to sin so egregiously by using endnotes, then use headers in the note section that contain the pages for which the notes on that page are found. For instance, if page 321 in your book contains the notes found in pages 45-57, then simply put a header on the page that reads "Notes from pp. 45-57." That way, the endnote will be more easily found. And by the way, footnotes at the end of chapters are worse than at the end of books. At least when they are at the end of books, you have a general idea of where to find them. The page on which chapter eight ends is a shot in the dark.

A second, but less troublesome practice in writing is the division of bibliographies into categories. While I believe the practice of exegesis includes trying to discern authorial intent, I do not think my exegetical time is best spent by trying to figure out if the author considered a book a "General Work," an "Exegetical Work," a "Journal Article," a part of a "Festschrift," or one of the other myriads of categories authors employ.

While my admittedly small mind can find no reason for endnotes aside from marketing to those who might intimidated by eight point type at the bottom of the page that contain usually valuable information, I can see some value in a divided bibliography. But not enough to make it recommended.

If you want to list works on a particular topic, put a bibliography at the end of the chapter on that topic, and then put a full bibliography at the end.

And while I am here, can we do away with MLA (or ALA or whatever it is) where notes are parenthetical, referencing only the author, the date, and the page number). It is extremely frustrating to try to figure out what Carson wrote in 1993 (especially when working with a divided bibliography ... but at least they are not at the end). With the miracle of word processors, just click on the little footnote button, and make a footnote.

Happy Reading ... and Happy Searching should you happen to have a book with endnotes and happen to actually read them.

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Dan Greenfield said...

I'm with you on the endnotes, Larry. I put a post-it note as a bookmark where I'm reading and the endnote location, but it's still a pain.

Even worse are some historical works (e.g., Edmund Morris' excellent biographies on Theodore Roosevelt) that not only use endnotes, they are without citation numbers!

Chris Anderson said...

Preach it. Who do endnotes help???? I guarantee that there were only footnotes before the fall. Ugh.

I also agree with you about bookshelves. I'd buy them, but then I'd have less money for, you know, books.

As for divided bibliographies, well, now you're just being contrary.

Terry Lange said...

Endnotes drive me nuts! Regarding Logos, could you not print out the page or pages that you need. I am a page and ink person as well, but also like the idea of having everything in one place (laptop) instead of having to lug around or check out books.

We use Turabian at the seminary I attend and that drives me nuts with some of those stylistic things. Then our seminary also has its own guidelines in addition to Turabian. It is enough to wonder are we there to learn about the Bible or Turabian and seminary paper guidelines. When working on a paper, I spend a lot of time just making sure that formatting is correct as I do researching and writing. I use Nota Bene which helps alleviate some of the formatting concerns.

end of rant...

Jason said...

"First, endnotes ... They are a sin against the reader."

LOL! You got that right! Now you're preachin'! Amen! *raises hands*

Joel Tetreau said...


I feel your pain bro....when I graduated from Central with my D.Min (which was constrained by both Turabian and Central's own "additional" rules), I thought about passing out pins to all the graduates that would say:

"We hate Kate!"

Fun thread Larry!

Straight Ahead!

Joel Tetreau

Anonymous said...

I am glad you like to read. I love to read, too. I rather think that your love for reading came from the fact that we did not had a TV when you were a child and you didn't have anything else to do with yourself. Also you got smart when you were bored in school and took a book to read. So, read on, just don't believe everything you read. A lot of the "religious" books are a bunch of hooey.

I agree with you about the endnotes.