Guide to Downloading and Managing Online Readings

Because so many readings are online (an increasingly prevalent trend in college courses), students will need to develop a method or workflow for themselves that optimizes their ability to study the materials. While everyone has their own personal preferences and technical preferences, the following are some suggested options for handling online materials:

  1. Annotating PDF’s on a laptop or desktop computer.  Some of the online readings in the course are Adobe Acrobat “PDF” files.  An excellent way to read PDF’s is to use the highlighting, commenting, bookmarking, and other annotation features in the free Adobe Acrobat Reader program (or another PDF reader program) to mark up documents as you study them, then save your annotated copy of the document locally or in a “cloud” service like Dropbox, Google Drive, etc..  The latest version of the Acrobat Reader program may be downloaded here.
  2. Annotating PDF’s on a tablet computer.  If you own a tablet computer such as an iPad, download an app like Adobe Reader, iAnnotate, PDF Reader, PDF Expert, or another PDF-capable documents reader that will allow you to annotate documents as you read.  Many of these apps also synchronize with cloud storage services such as Dropbox so that you can keep your annotated documents in a central location accessible to both your tablet and your laptop or other computer.
  3. Converting Web pages into PDF’s. For assigned readings that are Web pages (HTML pages), you can download extensions for your browser such as Save as PDF and Web 2 PDF that will convert most Web pages to PDF files that you can save.  (The exceptions are password-protected Web pages or some pages that for a variety of reasons do not convert well into PDF’s.)  You can also use an online convert-to-PDF service like PdfCrowd.
  4. Annotating Web pages without turning them into PDF’s. A variety of programs and browser plug-ins exist that allow you to highlight, draw, comment, and otherwise annotate Web sites and retain the marked-up copy of the page.  Some of these programs are described here. Recent new Web page annotator systems include Pundit (for Chrome web browser) and Hypothes.is. Hypothes.is is especially worthy of consideration: it is a free, open-source platform created by a non-profit organization that follows W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) evolving technical standards for annotation to allow users to annotate web pages they see in their browser by highlighting/commenting and then saving in the cloud. Annotations may be private to the user or shared publicly.
  5. Storing and Organizing Your Annotated Readings. You should have a location on your computer or in a cloud service such as Dropbox where you store in organized fashion the materials from the Internet that you have downloaded and annotated.  For example, create a single folder where you store your readings under file names such as: “McGann, Jerome (2002), Literary Scholarship in the Digital Age.pdf”
    1. You may also want to consider using the Zotero open-source, free bibliography program, which collects and manages citations in CML (citation markup-language) and can also be used to store downloaded files.