Take “Hamlet.” A decade ago, a student of the Shakespeare play would read the play, probably all the way through, and then search out separate commentaries and analyses.
When completed, the site will help visitors comb through several editions of the play, along with 300 years of commentaries by a slew of scholars. Readers can click to commentaries linked to each line of text in the nearly 3,500-line play. The idea is that some day, anyone wanting to study “Hamlet” will find nearly all the known scholarship brought together in a cohesive way that printed books cannot.
I have to admit this sounds exciting to me, as an English teacher. Having so much knowledge at our fingertips could really enhance our knowledge. I know many people believe that books are on the way out, set to be replaced by all the online reading we do. No matter how much time I spend each day, curled up in my computer chair, in front of the computer screen, and checking the RSS feed tracker I use to see which blogs I read have updated, I still can’t see books being replaced. I just can’t read longer works online. There is something about the feel of books in your hand, about the way they smell, that can’t be replaced by a computer screen.
Barnes and Noble and Borders are crowded every time I go there.