On the Format of the Documents
Warning to Web Purists
The point and click fluidity of the "Web experience" that provides the viewer with the "freedom" to "visit" virtually any Website, to drop in and quickly "browse" around before moving on to another site, is ideal for those seeking scaps of information or entertainment. However delightful, perhaps even satisfying, this experience may be, it can too easily become an obstacle to the critical study of the textual material contained in a Library such as this. In preparing this site a choice had to be made between forcing the documents to conform to the purity of the "Web experience" or in trying to make the technology of the Web facilitate the learning experience of the reader by preserving the printed format of the documents from which the on-line version were prepared. At every step of the way I chose the latter.
The format of books are such that one can "browse" the table of contents or the index (assuming that either or both are present), but since one must "study" what is written between these two terminal points in order to critically assess its contents, especially with regard to the material contained in this flidgeling "Library", it is essential that the reader has the means at hand to facilitate this. On the Web it is difficult, if not impossible given the present state of technology, to actively engage a document in the traditional manner, to underline important passages, to write comments in the margins, to dog-ear pages for future reference, etc. Although nothing can be done about the loss of these amenities, every effort has been made to re-produce the documents in a manner consistent, in both form and content, with the texts (books, pamphlets, or collections) from which they were drawn.
The tools of the Web have not been pushed aside in this effort. The most important of these, the "link" that allows the reader to jump to other parts of a document, is fully implimented. All divisions within a table of contents (when the text had one) are linked to the text. The reader can still point and click to a given area. Moreover, any documents containing a specific reference to another text in this collection, can also be retrieved by a simple point and click. In a similar vein, any document that contained a subject index in its printed version will also have an on-line version of the same index fully set-up to accommodate point and click access to specific pages. As this Library expands and new items are placed on-line, every effort will be made to go back to those texts which appeared early on and to "update" them by adding links to access the new material.
Perhaps the single largest complaint Web purists will have of the presentation of this material is the presence of "page numbers," and of "footnotes" that are not presented as "endnotes," interrupting the natural "flow" of browsing. Purists will complain that they "look terrible"; that they are "incongruous with the Web"; after all, "there are no page numbers on the Web" because the Web itself is one "great" page consisting of many parts linked together. Yet, page numbers remain one of the few indispensible "amenities" of the print medium facilitating access and use of these documents that can still survive on the Web (short of incurring additional expenses and complications for both myself and the reader, thereby possibly restricting accessibility, through the use of something like "Portable Document Format" (PDF) files and Adobe Acrobat).
The presence of page numbers and footnotes (when they exist), however innocuous they may seem to many, serve a number of important functions that perhaps are worth recalling very briefly. With respect to "footnotes," I have retained this style as a means for clearly distinguishing between the notes provided by the particular author and those provided by the editors of the various publishing houses. As for "page numbers", they have been in use for a few hundred years and do offer something to the reader. First and foremost, they provide the fastest and most direct way for researchers to cite textual material when necessary. Although many of the documents may have a very detailed table of contents with chapters broken down into sections, which are further subdivided, they can only put the reader in the general vicinity of a quote; the author would still be left with having to count paragraphs within any given section to further narrow down the location of the quoted material, and then leave it up to the reader to repeat the steps. Then, there are those texts that lack a detailed table of contents. Consider this example, Lenin's "What the 'Friends of the People' Are and How They Fight the Social-Democrats." The version from the 4th English edition of Lenin's Collected Works is roughly 200 pages and it is divided into two parts of 70 and 99 pages, respectively, and contain no other divisions (the remaining 30 pages are distributed among three Appendicies and a couple of very brief notes). Part I contains 133 paragraphs; the last part has 235 paragraphs. The problem presented by employing a system of citation by means of paragraph number, as opposed to page number, is starkly revealed here.
There are other factors that can be cited to justify asking the reader to tolerate the presence of page numbers. They are, for example, necessary for documents where the publishing houses provided a subject index to help those interested in specific topics. Although preparing such indicies for on-line use is a real pain-in-the-ass, their usefulness is undeniable, and they require the presence of page numbers (having rejected the system of citation by way of paragraph numbers as burdensome) to be effective. Readers interested in studying, as opposed to merely "browsing", these documents will not be able to do so while maintaining a live connection to their Internet Server. They will have to be "copied" and saved to your hard drive for subsequent use. Depending on the size of a document, it is likely that you will not, as a rule, be able to read any given item in one setting. You will have to come back to the document and a page number will provide a convienent reference point. Similarly, when the need arises to scroll back and review material, an obtrusive page number provides a better marker that counting paragraphs (which may be mis-counted if you scroll too fast). Those who wish to make a printed copy of any document will, admittedly, have to do some preparatory work consistent with individual tastes.
A consideration of these factors and the contribution they make in coming to terms with the material in this little Library go a long way toward justifying (in the minds of some) the need to sacrifice the seamless fluidity of the Web by interrupting the flow of the text with the presence of page numbers. Those who are interested in this material but uncomfortable with the prospect of having their "Web experience" diminished in any way will be able to find many of the same basic texts and the experience they desire at the Marx/Engels Internet Archive.