He cites the example of the headmaster of Cushing Academy in Massachusetts who -- according to the Boston Globe -- is remaking his school's library into a media center where e-readers replace books. From the Globe article:
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus. “This isn’t ‘Fahrenheit 451’ [the 1953 Ray Bradbury novel in which books are banned]. We’re not discouraging students from reading. We see this as a natural way to shape emerging trends and optimize technology.’’
Beings that we're in a sort of transition period between media, it's no wonder that folks will have strong reactions to Tracy's impulse. The article cites students and faculty quite upset with the manoeuvre. I'm sure there will be more than a fair share of supporters and detractors on either side.
Coming down on the side of the tomes, Steven writes:
I am one of the biggest advocates for progressive technology in the classroom you will find. There is nothing I want more than students to be immersed in technology whenever possible. However, one has to question the wisdom of this man. Replacing a collection of 20,000 books just does not add up for me. It is doubtful that even 25% of the paper books that were available before are available in a digital format. While there are services like Google Books and the various eBook outlets, I think it is premature to call books "outdated technology."
I understand where Steven is coming from. My bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining room, living room, car, and office are all littered with books. I'm absolutely certain that I own more physical paper than most human beings. I love books. As I've said they were nice.
But for all of the books I own, page-for-page I know I've read more digital text than paper text in my lifetime. Because, even for someone has always been as voracious a reader as me, I can safely say that since buying my first laptop some ten years ago, I've seen my own daily reading increase exponentially.
I think part of it is that there is just so much more text out there.
I used to read the front page of the NY Times and the Baltimore Sun each morning. Now, in the course of the day, I read the NY Times, the Sun, the Washington Post, Politico, Le Monde, The Independent UK, the Daily Dish, and the BBC Online along with very generous doses of the two dozen or so blogs I follow daily, the info and links I pick up from Twitter, and the literally hundreds of emails I've learned to filter through.
The way I used to teach, I'd read student writing twice a quarter; maybe three times in some classes. Now I read it via their blogs on a daily basis.
And as for novels and full-throttle non-fiction books? Continuing my traditional ways, I usually have two or three books out from the library on any given week. And I usually have twice as many bookmarked on my computer to read in e-format.
As a self-confessed bookworm, this is what I have to say from an utterly selfish point-of-view: I love the Internet and it has made me ten-times the reader I used to be.
Call me new-fashioned, but I actually prefer reading digital text. I prefer reading it, and I sure prefer writing it. I don't buy into the 'snuggling up with a good book' argument for physical text's superiority to e-text. On any given night, it's a toss-up for me whether I go to sleep reading an old paperback or an e-text. And given the limited and frustrating holdings of our public library, more and more it's becoming a case of the later.
Am I arguing for the end to books as we know it?
No. Because, I really don't think I have to. Time will take care of that.