Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Indices are wack...

Here's something I think everyone can support. All philosophical books should be available as searchable .pdfs. One reason is that large philosophical books are difficult to transport. For example, there's a nice logic handbook that is about 800 pages. As much as I might want to, I can't carry it with me wherever I go. Having a .pdf version would solve that. The main reason that all philosophical book should be available in .pdf is that indices in books by and large are awful. They range from non-existent to awful, with a very select few being good. For example, the translation of the first Critique that I used last semester had an index that failed, almost every time, to contain page numbers on the relevant words. More pressingly, several anthologies and handbooks I've read did not even have indices. This makes it quite hard to find particular quotes or definitions. If, as often is the case, one wants to write a paper that involves some close-reading of a text, it is invaluable to be able to find a particular phrase or quote. Or, say, one wants to find where in Wittgenstein's PI he uses the phrase "meaning as use." But, if, as is the case, he doesn't use the phrase, this leads to lots of time lost. So, the solution to this is to distribute the books in .pdf. The distribution is obviously going to be the hard part. Amazon has a nice program where you can access searchable .pdfs online for books you've bought through Amazon. Maybe academic institutions could set up some sort of online access to books. Or give them away for free. There's little evidence that free electronic copies of books lower sales of paper copies while there is some evidence that free distribution increases paper sales. In any case, sales of philosophical books are so low that increased notoriety can't do anything but help.

1 comment:

Justin said...

The real solution is to memorize the Philosophical Investigations. The Critique too. We do go to Pitt after all.