Thursday, November 30, 2006


One of the joys of being a research student is the freedom one has to explore.
The Internet offers many distractions, links lead to strange and interesting places; following those links exploring the world world allow my mind to float free.

I have tried to explain to many of my friends how exciting a place the world wide web is, it reminds me of the time I spent as a student in libraries and bookshops. In a well laid out bookshop or library one should be encouraged to browse, your eye should be led from the book you have picked up or are about to pick up to the next book. Modern book marketing has drawn on this with the "Let us Recommend" shelves and displays, libraries use our curiosity with "recently returned" displays. Amazon uses the same feature to extra ordinary effect on their "Customers may also find this interesting' pages.

When working in the bookshop I always felt sorry for the reluctant shoppers, those poor unwilling souls dragged into the shop by their partner. I could never understand how they could stand there, so obviously bored while their companion browsed. How could they not feel the urge to pick up a book and turn its pages? Equally here in cyberspace one cannot help feeling sorry for those who never go further than the first click, those for whom the first line of a search query is enough.

As a child I was often tempted by the internal references to be found in Encyclopedia Britannica that would take you deeper and deeper into information stored in those mighty tomes. The Internet still does that for me, but even more so. Even the simplest of searches can take one on a journey of discovery. The urge to click the save to favourites button lies deep within me, which is why my favourites / bookmarks lists are such a mess.

This week for some reason I've stumbled across several links related to books that attracted my attention.

Andrew Marr writes "Once upon a time I used to like novels". He could be right. Right now I'm reading Imperium by Robert Harris, in which he combines successfully the craft of the novelist with the skill of the biographer in his telling of the rise of Cicero. It could be a novel it could be a biography.

In the Penguin blog is a wonderful description of "Books by the Greats, Covers by You". Penguin are to publish some of their books without covers, ready to be decorated / doodled on by the purchaser / owner. Its an interesting idea. Examples can be found here.

While tidying my favourites (more of that later) I came across this article from the Guardian offering guidance on the art of browsing, "Feel free to browse". I know its been written about elsewhere but I love the page 69 advice.

Rebecca pointed me in the direction of the Encyclopedia Britanicca blog.

The wheel turns full circle.
Will I ever be able to concentrate on my research?


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