Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Quick post re: e-books/e-readers

Posted by lpearle on 30 August 2010

I’ve been busy working on the Big Move (photos to follow) and getting ready for the new academic year.  There are several posts in various stages of editing, so stay tuned.

However, this conversation happened yesterday and it gave me pause.  A close friend is reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  He pretty much raced through The Girl Who Played with Fire, and I’ll be purchasing Hornet’s Nest for him soon. This is someone for whom reading a book is an occasional thing; magazines and newspapers are more his style.  It’s probable that these are the first books he’s read all year.

To him, getting a Kindle or Nook or other e-reader would not be enticing.  In the first place, the length of time it would take for him to make it pay off is pretty long.  Second, he stares at a computer screen all day and getting him to look at one at home is, well, let’s just say it’s not happening (he does do on-line banking, but beyond that he maybe goes on-line 2-3 hours/week at home and that’s to surf YouTube, not to check Facebook or e-mail, etc.).  Third, it gives him a sense of accomplishment seeing the bookmark travel from the front of the book to the back.

There’s another reason, one that’s been covered by others – if you’ve got a book in your hand, cover showing, people may comment.  He’s had people ask him what he thinks about this plot twist or that character.  He’s had to stop people from spoiling future developments.  And he’s talked to people, mostly during quick elevator rides, about this book.  That would not happen with an e-reader, where Tolstoy looks just like Twilight.

When people ask me about electronic books and digital resources, my response is that in terms of the collection fiction and narrative non-fiction (for example, Swanson’s Manhunt or Roach’s Packing for Mars) will remain a print purchase for the foreseeable future.  More research-based works?  Not so much.  Now, that could change – whoda thunk that we’d be talking seriously about e-books 5 years ago? – but for now, that’s my thinking vis-a-vis what will go on our shelves.  And in part that response is informed by my friend’s experience, and those of students excited about grabbing a book off the shelves because the cover art catches their eye.

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