A False Dichotomy of E-books Versus “Real” Books

Posted by Big Universe on Jan 9, 2013 7:00:59 PM

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While doing research on Morgana leFay in an undergraduate library, the sun highlighted bans of dust and the library cat sat on the table, watching me pour over a pile of library books needed for a Medieval Lit class paper. The difference between newer books (smooth print, formatted with adequately kerned and tracked sentences) versus old (rougher, brittle pages that had old looking fonts and single spaced) could be reduced to a musty smell of stale Cheerios. I looked for a page that seemed to be not there. Was it ripped out? I flipped back and forth between pages, looking for consecutive paging. And then I remembered the Great Gatsby, with Jay Gatsby’s library full of “uncut” books. Later, I ripped open the page with a dinner knife – and found what I needed folded in between a bound page. My tactile experience with books, 20 years ago, doesn't negate today’s convenience of googling research to find needed support for argument, especially during a library’s closed hours.

Yet there are those who still prefer “real” books over e-books, especially parents of young children who admit to a double-standard – they are avid digital readers yet want the tactile benefits of books, including bedtime cuddles.

Others say that we need more research before taking an either-or-stand. As debate rages on about the value of ebooks versus real books, the Cooney Center aims “to foster a productive dialogue about digital media and our kids” and the researchers who first posed the question of our report “Print Books vs. E-books” – sought to “measure levels of engagement — between parent and child, and with the book itself.”

Although parents and educators may feel strongly for either bound or electronic books, the bottom line for both is enjoying reading and increasing reading skills. We really don’t need to stand behind an either-or mentality, as hardcopy books and text media are integral part of our life. I would bet money that school libraries won’t ever go paperless, but schools are successfully using electronic reading programs, such as Big Universe (read about one teacher who integrates both in her classroom).

The value in shared reading, and a cuddle quotient, remains in the hands of readers – using hard copy books, ipads and electronic readers. In an unlikely, but shared reading experience, my sons gather round the computer and the three of us work on religion class survey-type questions and answers on mass and book readings (accessible through pdf) – sometimes with appropriate video clips. This however is not relaxed reading, but homework, yet I have to admit, to my own surprise, that they don’t treat it as work. There is a place for real books in our lives – and alternative reading mediums. Time to make room for both.

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Topics: Personal Experiences, Technology, Literacy

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