Those of us with a bookish outlook often wish we could look things up. This comes to mind because of a recent documentary I watched, but the thought has occurred many times when visiting museums, particularly for special exhibits. I’m pretty easily overwhelmed by too much information at once. In a museum I have trouble reading all the placards and remembering how they tie in because there are so many interesting artifacts to look at. I leave inspired and impressed and wishing I could look up the information I just read. I’ve often wondered why museums don’t sell exhibition books that have photographs of the objects with replications of the placards describing what they are. Maybe it’d just be a market of one, but I’d buy them.
The same thing is true of documentaries. I’ll readily admit I’m poor with names. It takes many interactions before a person’s name sticks with me. (It’s nothing personal, I assure you—it’s just the way my brain works.) When I watch a documentary I often wish a booklet accompanied it with the names, and credit lines of the interviewees and (because I know this is available on IMDb) a full bibliography. The books mentioned. You see, those of us inclined to research enjoy looking things up. In the case of a long documentary (and that’s only if you subscribe or buy it instead of “renting” it for a one-time viewing) it means having to skim through it all again to reach the information that you could easily look up in a book. Books are wonderful.
For me, one of the benefits of books is their stability. Electronic resources change. When you go to cite a website as a source you have to list the accessed date because things may have changed. The book on your shelf remains reliably unaltered. The few ebooks I’ve read come with marks in them. There’s probably a way of turning this off, but I don’t want to see what other people think is noteworthy. I suppose it’s supposed to make reading a communal experience. Reading, in my experience of it, is mostly a private things. One of the great joys in life is talking about reading with others, whether it’s the same book you’ve read, or a different one. Why not add to that by making books to go with other species of information-sharing, such as museums and documentaries? Those of us with a bookish outlook aren’t hard to please. We just like to have it down on paper.