ebooks v. dead-tree books

I recently read a blog post, titled “Book is Ruin: Ebooks, temporality, and tension”, by Sarah Wanenchak. In it, she describes the associations that many of us have with books (the “dead-tree kind” as she describes them) & Literature (yes, capitalized) and time & decay. in the article, she examines the temporal nature (including ruination and decay) of books, as well as the tension between the two camps: dead-tree bibliophiles and digital e-book heretics (my choice of adjectives, not hers).

First, I should mention that I am of the tribe that has never read a book – or anything for that matter – on an e-reader  It’s not that I am ethically or morally opposed to e-readers or e-books. Quite the contrary, actually, as I believe that anything that can get a child, student, or adult to readis a valuable resource. And it’s not that I would never consider using an e-reader… if I had to. I’m of the tribe (likely a diminishing tribe) who prefer the physicality of dead-tree books: the weight and feel of paper, the smell of paper, dog-earring and marking up the pages, etc. Dead-tree books exist in time, particularly the past, in a way that e-books simply won’t. I enjoy loaning books to friends and hoping they too will add their notes and scribblings – each reader leaving behind a personal, handwritten history behind in the margins and pages. And even if they don’t leave anything written, dead-tree books retain physical traces of their users. There is something fascinating about these temporal and physical traces, the book’s history. Certainly e-books have their advantages, and the point is not to disparage one form in support of another – I support anything that gets people reading. Will e-readers bring about the end of dead-tree books? It’s not likely. First, there are too many who enjoy the physicality of books that I described. Second, bibliophiles aren’t born; they’re made. We learn to love books because we’re taught to. The same can be said for future generations. Sure, there might be fewer new dead-tree books published, in favor of e-books. But the dusty, hard cover and paperback books won’t simply disappear. And as a future teacher, I hope to be able to suggest that both can co-exist, and to use them to good purpose.

Below is a selection of some artists working with dead-tree books. Their exploration and exploitation of the physicality of these books is wonderful.

  1. Carved Book Landscapes, by Guy Laramee
  2. Fictional Landscapes, By Kyle Kirkpatrick
  3. Tower of Babel, by Martin Minujin
  4. Text Drawings, by Meg Hitchock
  5. Giant Labyrinth, by Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo
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3 thoughts on “ebooks v. dead-tree books

  1. If the only way we can encourage a student to read a book is by offering them a e-reader to do so, then I believe we should do so if at all possible. I think paper books will always be a great source and it is nice to be able to share a book with a friend or relative and see the notes or comments on the sides of the pages give you a personal connection through the text you are reading. I once thought to myself why anyone would want to read a book on a tablet. My views have since changed over the last two years .It all started when I received an IPad as a gift and realized what an e-book really is and what you can do with it. You can highlight the text and you can leave notes but of course they are not written with your own hand writing so it makes it less personal. I love the ability to have multiply books on one tablet and you can carry it everywhere you go. One of the best features is the ability for my husband and I to buy one book and have it on each of our IPad. We are able to read the same book at the same time at our own speed and can discuss it as we read along. It also saves us some money. It is defiantly a new way to read and does take a little time to adapt to. You do not turn the pages as you would with a traditional book. Technology is changing our lives and the way we do things.

  2. I would agree that “dead tree” books are not going away any time soon. I think the “dead tree textbook” will, though, as digital readers with digital textbooks can result in a huge savings to a school district where routinely textbook budgets are astronomical.

    As long as we don’t force our own preferences for learning on our students and remain willing to honestly try new things and new ways of learning, we’re on the right track.

  3. I remember when e-books came out and thinking they wouldn’t really take off, but clearly they have as you describe. I have never read an e-book but I have used a digital textbook, and I have to say I am not a fan of those. For me reading dense material that we often times find in a textbook, I would much rather prefer to have the hard copy in front of me so I can highlight and make notes in the margin. I know many programs allow you to also do this with e-books as Christine mentioned, I am not sure about digital textbooks, but I found myself printing off pages of the book so that way I could have them with me at all times rather than needing to be in front of a computer to reference the textbook.

    However, on the contrary, I recently completed observations in a first grade classrooms where the students used an online reading program called Raz Kids, http://www.raz-kids.com/, and the students absolutely loved reading on Raz Kids! There were typically only five laptops available for students to use though so they have to take turns to get on Raz Kids. While waiting for their turn to use a laptop, students would have to read a paperback or hard-cover book, yet it was clear that most students preferred reading on Raz Kids. I think it was good though that students had a choice and one way or the other wasn’t forced upon them as @DrRansom mentioned. Right now the choice is still there for students and adults alike to pick whether they want to read from a “dead-tree” book or e-book, and I hope that will continue to hold true in the future.

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