Monday, July 20, 2009

Pondering books…

Shall we?

A bitch just read this article about a proposal from the Democratic Leadership Council to move from textbooks toward e-books and…well, it made a bitch sad.

I happen to enjoy the hell out of books…I adore books…shit, I am currently sitting in my couch-based area surrounded by books!

Yes, they weigh more than an electronic pocket tool…but a bitch even enjoys the weight of books.

There’s something about the texture of paper…the sensation of flipping through page after page to reveal the story within. A bitch has fond memories of weekend visits to my local library where I’d stock up on biographies, histories and trashy novels…and when I returned home I’d settle into bed for hours of fantabulous reading.

Gawd, those were the days.

I can’t imagine snuggling down with an e-book. Does one spread e-books out on the kitchen table to do homework? And there won’t be any coffee stains on the pages of e-books to remind a bitch what my ass was drinking the last time I read [insert novel title here]!


Anyhoo, the Democratic Leadership Council is saying that e-books will save money and open up a discussion for online media in classrooms and blah, blah and another blah.

Fuck it…if e-books are the future of books this bitch won’t be able to stop that shit.

But I’m not feeling it and I’m already nostalgic for days spent thumbing through a printed thing as imagination kicked in and characters jumped off the page to become real…or a fork full of spaghetti plopped onto the page leaving a stain on a page I’d find months or years later when re-reading...or a turn of the page would reveal a phone number written next to the page number that a bitch can't connect to anyone I fucking know.


Something tells me this transition will be far more painful than the death of record albums and themed mix tapes recorded off the radio.


Middle Girl said...

I am so with you on this (well, on much) but on this, yes!

mr_subjunctive said...

Well, and also if you change your mind about someone having a particular book, you can just zap it off their screen remotely. No more of that having to break into someone's home to take their books, which gets so awkward. And you can make people pay you repeatedly to read the same book, by switching to a book-renting concept instead of book-buying. Everybody wins. Ask the people who bought 1984 on Kindle.


I want real books. I recognize that there are cool things about e-books, but I don't want those things. So I'm not going to buy e-books until I'm forced to. (I've managed to get by without a cell phone: I think I can live without e-books.)

Rileysdtr said...

No, no, a thousand times NO! Call me Luddite in this if you wish, but books are precious.

That said (reluctant grumble) I can see the value of working with some electronic text. It IS less expensive for school districts and parents (in the long run), is easier for children to lug around, and can be updated at the flick of a download. But still.... I am concerned. The paranoid part of me suggests that e-copy is a far too convenient medium with which to control the message; we have enough trouble with local school councils deciding to teach about human/dinosaur interaction as it is.

Besides, to cross-reference Little Sister's previous post, we did not put men on the Moon because we could add and subtract. We put men on the Moon because of a buring curiosity, a drive to UNDERSTAND (yes, yes, cold war competition etc. was a factor... I am way old enough to get that) and due to thousands of individuals carrying a love of learning that drove them to GET the advanced degrees, to stretch their minds, to conceive the impossible.

"Improved test scores" had nothing to do with it.

No School Left Alone (aka "no child left behind") does our students a disservice. We should instill a love of learning alongside math, science, language etc. I am not going all touchy/feely on this - the nuns taught me and had only the barest tolerance for touchy/feely on the best of days. But curiosity - the challenging of "impossible" drives education. Falling in love with "The Arabian Nights" or the works of Heinlein or Harry Potter or whatever the next generation will bring expands the mind and increases the desire to read more. To read more is to learn more. To learn more is to do more.

Show me how one can fall in love with a Kindle like a reader does with books and I'll buy in.

jsb16 said...

Part of the reason for electronic textbooks can be blamed on Texas and California. Because they are so big and order their textbooks on a statewide basis, they determine what goes into a textbook. And they want EVERYTHING in their textbooks. So if you're teaching someplace else, you get everything Texas and California want which is usually more than any sane person would want to teach in a year. Making a kid lug twelve chapters they're never going to cover (in addition to the 12 they are going to cover) in textbook, workbook, lab-book, and supplemental exercises book just seems cruel. Especially when we can give them all that, plus the audio book, online.

Novels are a different story (har har), but online textbooks have *lots* of advantages.

IseultTheIdle said...

I have a Kindle. I love it. I can carry multiple books with me to and from work and read whatever I'm in the mood to read.

I still have paper books, of course. Books signed by the author, rare books, books that were given as gifts... books that are special to me as books.

I'm not going to go so far as to say paper is dead, but as a tree hugger who would certainly like to see less paper manufactured, bleached and used once per person before being boxed up and stored as snacks for silverfish... yeah. The stuff I enjoy but don't feel attached to in a physical way, or text books I'll read (mostly) one time, I have no problem with reading those electronically.

As for the Orwell kerfluffle - no idea what the story was there, but the people who bought it were compensated. I have noticed that many late 20th-Century authors' writings are not available for the Kindle yet. I assume it has to do with getting consent from their estates as well as their publishers but that's just a guess.

L. Jackson said...

Electronic reading is good for the snippets, whether the news, textbooks, etc. Problem with that is u have a tendency to skip over the 'thoughts' that u need to ponder...or lead u to more investigation of a subject. I LOVE the internet but I also see a lack of basic English being left out with the texting shorthand & that bothers me! Grin, then me wonders how do u 'hi-lite' a portion that u know will be on the test when u don't have an actual book? or write in the edges a question or point to bring up? Glad the major decisions on education do not rest with me!lol

Flying Cuttlefish said...

I smell kickbacks.

IseultTheIdle said...

"then me wonders how do u 'hi-lite' a portion that u know will be on the test when u don't have an actual book?"

You can highlight and make notes on a Kindle, and search them as well. I assume the newer, textbook size one is better for this than my small Kindle 2.

As the technology improves this will get better - I find it a little kludgy right now.

Also, just as a side point - someone mentioned having to pay repeatedly. This is not true. If I delete a book and then decide I want it again, I can have it back at no charge.

After the initial outlay (and yeah, it's a few hundred dollars), the books themselves are much cheaper as well, so there's that.

Paper books will be around for a while, no worries. After all, you can still buy new LPs.

Erica said...

There are a LOT of e-book readers besides the Kindle, they just aren't being as aggressively marketed. I am going to buy myself an e-book reader in the next few months, and it won't be one which is tied to one particular text supplier! Why would I want this in addition to my shelves full of regular paper books? Because my shelves are FULL of regular paper books, and an e-book reader is cheaper than buying a bigger home :)

There's a world of difference between grade school textbooks (which students don't keep once the school year is over) and books one reads for leisure... and I wouldn't mind having e-textbooks at all. For me, the issue is not so much the loss of the physical paper, but the issue of providing e-book readers to all the students, and more importantly what happens if the reader gets stolen or broken. We're talking a device worth a couple hundred dollars, compared to a ~$50 book? Considering the state textbooks are in after just a year of use, let alone five, just imagine what's going to happen to an electronic device and all its delicate circuitry.

LisaMJ said...

Well, one good thing about e-books (and I don't have one yet) is that they are lighter. I just moved a few months ago after living in the same place for about 13 years. Lord, I gave away and recycled tons of books (boxes and boxes) and still had a ton left and almost killed myself trying to move that stuff. I even told myself, unless it is super special, or I go back to school I am not allowed to buy any new books until I get rid of some old ones, though I did cheat and buy a few Tim Wise books. At least with an e-book I'd have saved myself much back strain.

I do understand the allure of flipping pages, scribbling in corners, smelling a new book, and curling up but less clutter might be nice too.
FOrmerly Just Lisa J

GailS said...

I work in the printing industry and we're suffering enough as it is, but I think e-books may help to be an equalizer in education. E-books -- particularly PDF formatted e-books -- are cheaper than paper books and they're more available. That's a big plus for under-served schools. Yes, this is another nail in the coffin that awaits paper books, but I really do think it's a worthwhile effort.

David Duff said...

Another of life's tiny pleasures is to be found in the occasional old, second-hand book with an inscription, usually loving, to an unknown some-one; or, a passage highlighted in the margin and you wonder who marked it and why it was important to them.

Dianne said...

My husband laughs at me--because every time we enter Border's, I stop at the door and breathe deeply of the heady scent of new books and fresh coffee.

I found my favorite book EVER, tucked away on a dusty shelf in a used paperback shop with that faint, musty smell of old paper.

My husband found almost $200 squirreled away, willy nilly, among the pages of his Grandma's books after she passed away.

Show me how I can get those experiences from an e-book, and I might think about it. Until then, no thanks.

catnmus said...

I love my Kindle 2 ebook reader. It's amazing how fast you get used to the small screen (which doesn't display as much text as a paper book). I have a leather cover for it so it FEELS like a "real" book, too. I like the fact that I can look an unfamiliar word up in the dictionary right then and there. But none of these things will stop me from buying real books. In fact, I'll probably purchase a second, physical copy of the books I really loved.

I love the IDEA of e-books for students. But, I can also remember the days when I would have my fingers of my left hand bookmarking several pages at once so I could easily flip back and forth between them while studying. Not very easy to do with the Kindle (I haven't played with the bookmarking feature yet).

And, everyone seems to forget that e-books STILL COST MONEY. Oh sure they'll probably cost less than paper books, but will they cost ENOUGH less? And they will need to be bought for each student every year - no sharing, remember? So I'm not sure it will be cost effective in the long run.

Unknown said...

I've gotta admit that I'm big into e-books. Before the dawn of the popular internet (back in the BBS days), if someone couldn't find me anywhere else, they tried the library. I had so many books of my own that I earned the nickname "stacks" and my husband was threatening me after our last move -- books are heavy!

But that said, I fell hard for e-books. You can annotate without defacing anything. You can read them in the dark without need of extra lighting. A few dozen (or a few hundred) of them fit in your back pocket without much of a bulge. You can modify the font size, contrast, etc. to accommodate your eyeballs' preferences.

I think there will always be a romantic role for physical books to play, but when it comes to text books, I think the advantages that e-formating offers far outweigh those of paper printed books. It's a learning tool.

We shouldn't get caught up in the past on this one. E-books have so much to offer us in terms of added functionality for learning. If you want to handle a physical book for the pleasure of it, sure .. indulge yourself. But you can't beat ebooks when it comes to functionality.

Jeffrey Ricker said...

Every time I read a story like this I think of seeing the episode of "Star Trek" (because, as you know, everything I needed to know in life, I learned from "Star Trek" ::wink::) where Captain Picard is reading the Homeric verses in the original Greek (natch). And he's not reading it on some tricorder or PADD or newfangled output. He's reading a book. A paper book with pages and a hardcover.

If it's good enough for the captain of the Enterprise, it's sure as hell good enough for me.

TJ said...

I also like the idea of e-books for kids' textbooks. It is excellent, but...

I also like the idea of carrying a book with me that is not going to stop working. It isn't going to crash or run out of juice or get dropped and broken into a million pieces. If the world ends in nuclear devastation, I can spend my last moments of breath and sight with a musty paper story.

David Duff said...

Dianne, what a tease you are!

"my favorite book EVER"

What was it?

Ellie said...

I have to say - I have a kindle and there are huge advantages, most of which have already been covered by other commenter's here, so I will *try* not to belabour the point.

I do feel compelled to say though - I ADORE reading - this was the main reason for the Kindle being gifted to me, because economically it makes more sense for me, space-wise it makes more sense for me, and environmentally it makes more sense for me.

I love paper books - I have faaaar too many, and they aren't going away anytime soon. I mean I literally LOVE the scent of book pages, sometimes I just sit and flip the pages and just breath deep.

but - even if I love the smell, it's a lot better for me to purchase my textbooks on my kindle if possible (which it has been for quite a few so far! which is wonderful!)

and the environmental factor is verrra nice.

as a college student living in a tiny studio apartment, it just makes a lot of sense all the way around. And as a lover of reading who believes that everyone should have the chance to find that love for themselves - I'll support anything that can make it cheaper, school-wise and personal-reading wise.

Ellie said...

Also - I have to say getting newspapers on the kindle is another wonderful in my life.

I can read it on the bus to class without annoying the people seated next to me and I don't have to go down to the lobby of my apartment complex to pick it up! It just automatically downloads every morning!

The price is quite right as well. =]

jsb16 said...

For the record, the electronic textbooks we use are not on a proprietary e-book reader. They're on the internet. So students need internet access to use them, but they don't need special equipment beyond the computers in the (school) library or at home.

Anonymous said...

hahaha! the forkful of spaghetti! hahhahah!!

y'know, i find this charming when it's books on my shelf. the ones i take out from the library ... erm, not so much. but at least i feel connected to humanity, y'know? someone else loved this same book enough that they couldn't bear to put it down to eat, either.

all the harry potter books i have are trashed, for instance.

it's good to know that the physical experience of enjoying a book is important. living in my tiny house, i really miss having a piano. stupid, but true. many have suggested getting a keyboard, but i wouldn't even consider it. keyboards are nothing like pianos. much of what i enjoy about playing piano is the physical experience of the instrument. this isn't *as* true of books, because words on a screen don't lose as much as words on a page - but i don't read a laptop at the table. i put it down and get a book, a newspaper, or a magazine. and usually, a forkful of spaghetti gets on it. ha!

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