Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Book Is a Book Is a Book?

Fascinating discussion on See Also about the definition of "book" which really makes one think about the notion and how it's (might be) changing.
I do agree that a book as a physical object is very different from any electronic or digital version. As the article and comments imply, we're nowhere near the perfect e-book reader/format.
It also raises the issue of how we teach kids about the beauty and value of the printed word. I'm afraid I don't take a lot of time doing that and get distracted by the need for information over the need to interact with the physical thing which is the book. Maybe this year I can figure out better ways to help my students and staff really appreciate books for their own sake as well as for the information and entertainment they contain.

1 comment:

Steve Grant said...

I fully agree that a physical (i.e. bound paper) book is very different from a digital version ("ebook") of the same content. And it follows that one's experience of reading--and viewing, moving through, accessing... "using"--the physical book will inevitably be different from the experience of doing that with an ebook version.

What I wonder about is to what degree today's students--especially those now in elementary school--will care. I remain convinced that widespread use/adoption of ebooks is coming, and I still suspect it will be sometime within the next ten years. Right now there are plenty of us baby boomers (and younger) who remain enamored of the look, feel, smell of "dead-tree edition" books, and are more than willing to deal with their limitations (size and weight, time required to acquire one you want but don't already have at hand). But as ebook reading devices ("ERDs") improve (and technology and society continue to push us to be more mobile and do more in less time), I believe most of tomorrow's adults who have come through school using etextbooks on ERDs (yes, I do believe that's coming soon to a K-12 school near you) will be happy to trade the inconvenciences of bound-paper books for the ease of acquisition (and other advantages) of ebooks. The look/feel/smell (and usage characteristics) of paper books won't matter nearly as much to them.

This is not to say there won't always be some people who treasure bound-paper books and who collect personal libraries of them much as people collect all sorts of other kinds of things today. But I have a hunch that K-12 school (and perhaps even eventually public) libraries as housed collections of bound-paper books which are considered important and useful enough to be 1) continually supplemented with new ones and 2) funded to remain open every day for circulation to patrons... well, I think they're on their way out.

This saddens me--as I know it must sadden you--and I hope I'm wrong. But it seems to me what's beginning to happen.

I do think ERDs--even Amazon's new Kindle--still aren't good enough for ebooks to gain traction yet, but the Kindle's advantages over Sony's Reader bring us just that much closer. I plan to write about this soon on my own blog (