Buying the footnotes

Holding out while newspapers are suffering major financial hardship, books, in terms of people willing to pay for ink-on-paper, have so far bucked the digital tide. But any concern for their future would be better spent on the future of reading, according to Clive Thompson. He makes this point in Wired:

Books have a centuries-old tradition of annotation and commentary, ranging from the Talmud and scholarly criticism to book clubs and marginalia. [Alan] Stein believes that if books were set free digitally, it could produce a class of 'professional readers'—people so insightful that you'd pay to download their footnotes. Sound unlikely? It already exists in the real world: Microsoft researcher Cathy Marshall has found that university students carefully study used textbooks before buying them, because they want to acquire the smartest notes.

Hat tip: Putting People First