About The Case for Books

Matthew Battles responds to Robert Darnton’s The Case for Books, reminding us that the facets of blogging and social networking that are supposed to be shortening our attention spans—serialization, focusing on small bits of text, jumping from bit to bit—have all been part of the practice of creating commonplace books for centuries.

Deep in the early modern bibliosphere, readers kept notebooks to record especially amusing, provoking, and useful quotations. The resulting commonplace books not only preserved a record of one's reading life, but also furnished material inspiration for further study, contemplation, and writing… [Darnton] declares that early modern readers read "segmentally, by concentrating on small chunks of text and jumping from place to place and jumping from book to book..." does it sound familiar?