Another problem with electronic formats is the ease of “skimming” for research purposes. But this is probably more a matter of interface design that needs to catch up. For those who don’t know: to traverse a lot of literature quickly, you need to be able to, non-linearly but nonetheless highly methodically, work your way through a potential target text, often by just reading say, the first and last paragraph of every chapter, or the first and last sentence of every paragraph. Electronic books kind of assume that you will read the entire thing sequentially; flipping through them can be hard.
Something else related to this is the internal references in the text themselves. I mean god knows why book publishers insist on end notes but their idiocy is massively amplified in electronic editions. It’s even worse in multi-author compilations, when you just don’t want to check the end notes, but the bibliography for each article is off with the fairies somewhere down the back the (750-page) book, and the publisher has provided no internal hyperlinking. This is just stupid, and actually makes using the text for what it’s intended, i.e. scholarly research, almost impossible. Why do they do this, even think that’s a good idea? Publishers, if you’re not going to hyperlink the references then every reference ought to be a footnote, and rendered right on the same page with the text it appears in. Got that?
On the dreaded DRM see this excellent post by the author Charlie Stross.
Doing some basic research into Livy’s use of the term fat-um -is (fate) because I was interested in this passage at the end of the description of Hannibal’s dream at 21.22.9;
pergeret porro ire nec ultra inquireret sineretque fata in occulto esse
he was therefore to go on, nor enquire further, but suffer destiny to be wrapped in darkness. (Loeb translation)
My interest in this little passage is sineret fata in occulto esse, which I translated as something like ‘he must allow the fates to be in secret’. You’ll note fata, the plural, is used here, but the Loeb has the singular ‘destiny’. I was wondering if the plural form has a special meaning, like aedis (temple, room), aedes (house). I asked about some of my fellow post-grads, and oddly enough, two out of three instantly said, “I am sure that’s the form it’s normally in”. Well, is it? Not when you look in the Oxford Latin Dictionary, and certainly not in Livy, it turns out.
Here I am also indebted to the work of Iiro Kajanto, 1957, God and Fate in Livy (Turku) a book which I’m not pleased to say I had to get out on inter-library loan and which is due back shortly. There’s a table on page 63, where he breaks out between fatum and fatalis (e.g. fatalis dux) but here I’m concerned much more with the different cases of fatum and have excluded the adjective. I used Brepolis to do the search. I reproduce the spreadsheet data at the end.
From the data:
The first decade (i.e. books 1 to 10) has 27 of 39 total occurrences. Books 21-45 have 12. The top three books are book 5 (7), book 8 (6) and book 1 (5). After book 30, there are fatum in any form only appears 3 times (all of them the dat/abl singular, fato).
The dat/abl sing.fato is the single most common form in Livy, nearly half of the references (18 of 39) are in this form. I presume because of the forms “by fate”, “with fate”, “to fate”, “from fate” etc. Outside the first decade, it is nearly all fato – actually the occurrence in book 21 is the only time fata is used after book 10 (plus there’s one occurrence of the nom/voc/acc sing. form fatum and one of gen pl. fatorum otherwise it’s fato all the way).
Of each case + number variant: fatum 2; fati 3, fato 18, fata 8, fatorum 1, fatis 7. Singular forms 23, plural 16. Nom/voc/acc s + pl, 10 times, gen s + pl, 4 times, dat/abl s + pl, 25 times.
Once again I’m confronted with the practice of the “page” number in modern books when I’m now reading many of the secondary texts in electronic formats (our library prefers to buy the texts in that form, as I’ve ranted about here before, because they use a really stupid Adobe DRM’d format). My school’s PhD referencing guide needs to be updated; it is silent on the issue of e-books. Kindle uses a “Location” number which can be utilised, but it’s specific to the device. If you don’t have a Kindle (lets say you got the same book from Apple iTunes/iBooks, or from another e-book vendor, or you have the paper version), the Kindle “Location” is irrelevant to you.
The real problem here descends from the idea of “page” numbers as the ideal format. It’s tied to a very particular presentation scheme that plainly is about to become out of date. The whole idea of “pages” or whatever proprietary display format you’re looking at ought to be dropped and we should concentrate on the texts themselves.
I’m a classicist. We have standard editions of each text in which each is given a canonical numbering scheme, usually along the lines of book/chapter/sentence. Some examples; Livy 5.51.5 is Intuemini enim horum deinceps annorum vel secundas res vel adversas; invenietis omnia propoera evenisse sequentibus deos, adversa spernentibus. Epic poetry is typically quoted as book and line number, e.g. Vergil Aenid 1.278-9: His ego nec metas rerum nec tempora pono; imperium sine fine dedi, or for collections of shorter poems, book/poem/line, e.g. Horace Carm 2.3.1 Aequam memento rebus in arduis. These citation schema are assigned to each text when a scholar has painstakingly compiled a ‘standard’ edition of the text from the surviving manuscripts (often published by Teubner, so sometimes referred as the ‘Teubner edition’ of the text).
For modern texts, publishers should be now assigning each text a ‘standard edition’ way of citing the text and if necessary, embedding that information into the text itself if the ebook formats won’t support it. This way it won’t matter if the reader uses a Kindle, or a Kobo, or iBooks or even a printed version; the text references are constant, and apparent to all readers.
Of course, ideally the ebook publishers ought to all agree that they will each have a way to embed the publishers’ citation system into each of their own individual formats such that every edition of a text can be referred to in a standardised way by all users of any format. But of course as we are stuck in the “format wars” period and have a vicious, anti-scholarship intellectual property regime imposed on everyone by vested corporate interests, I’d be surprised if that happens.