Sep 18 2009 2:41pm

Bells, Whistles, & Books: Going Paperless

Speaking of disbelief, several days ago I read about the New England high school that was going bookless in their library. I haven't been able to get it out of my mind.  You can read the article here. My first reaction, probably like a lot of people, was shock. A library without books?

Of course, they will have electronic books, a few anyway, so that is something, but they are clearing out their 20,000 book collection to “improve” their library.


I am going to try to avoid my knee-jerk reaction (!) look at it from all sides, and play devil’s advocate.

The principal is going to replace those books with computers and Kindles or Sony readers for the students. The electronic books certainly do have their advantages. You can have access to thousands of books at a moment’s notice (for a price of course), they certainly save trees and storage space, there are all kinds of handy features like bookmarks, font size change capabilities (and more fun, slick stuff), and for transporting books, they certainly can’t be beat. One Kindle can hold 1,500 books! That could sure save a lot of backs. All good stuff.

Yes, I know I have a strong attachment to the old “scrolls” which is what the principal compared books to.  Guilty as charged. I love the texture of paper, the act of turning pages, even the smell of books–well, most books anyway. But I have to remember, that may only be a sentimental attachment on my part, and a new generation of readers may not have this attachment at all.

I also have to admit to a certain awe every time I walk into a library and I see rows and rows of books, the wisdom of the ages, and then perhaps stumbling down the wrong row and discovering books I didn’t even know existed. But perhaps awe is not enough to justify the expense of books, and there are ways to stumble upon books on the internet so the browsing argument won’t really hold up either.  So, trying to get past the tradition and habits that many of us are used to, are there any advantages the traditional book can offer?

My first thought was that there is a certain spatial awareness that plays into my understanding of a story. I am at the beginning. The middle. So close to the end. Three pages left. Omigod, I’m almost there. The end. Sigh.

Didn’t mean to get carried away there, but there is a spatial quality to a book as I read and flip back and forth, rereading passages. On a computer you can flip back and forth too, and maybe seeing the page number or scroll bar at the side is enough for some readers, but on a computer, one page is the same as another, its place within a book doesn’t stand out. I write my entire books for the most part on a computer, but periodically I have to print it out to really “see” the story, and to understand its progression. Reading it is on a computer is not enough to grasp the story as a whole. I can’t help but feel the reading experience of an electronic book might too closely resembles the reading experience of surfing for information online, where pages encourage skimming, while real paper slows us down and encourages lingering. But again, playing devil’s advocate, this may just be my own perception developed through habit and tradition.

But there is an advantage that I think has nothing to do with old habits. A traditional book offers no distractions. No pop-ups, no games, no bells, no whistles. Just you, the book, and your thoughts. Time to sit, reflect, ponder, and make connections. How often when looking at a computer screen can you do that without the temptation to fill it with one of those bells and whistles? With a book the only bells and whistles are your thoughts. That is no small thing.

And finally, maybe I have been reading too many dystopian novels lately, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind that if we eventually do become a nation of entirely virtual books that we are 1) only one Mega Energy Crisis away from losing them all. Kindles have to be recharged. Books do not. And, 2) What is to stop a hacker or extreme political regime from reaching into my electronic device and altering my books or zapping them away altogether?

In fact, this already happened with some Kindle users when Amazon took back an illegal copy of a book. Amazon retrieved the books without the owner’s knowledge or permission. The Kindle users didn’t truly own their own books apparently. Yes, this time it was an illegal copy of a book that shouldn’t have been sold in the first place and Amazon did apologize, but it illustrates that your Kindle is not the same as a private library. Other people can access it. 

Another thing that perplexed me was that the principal noted that on one given day only 48 books had been checked out of the library. I had to scratch my head that his response to this was to get rid of the books! What about looking at the school curriculum? If reading is truly valued at the school, is there time allowed in the curriculum for students to choose books to read? You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip or more reading hours out of student who already has every minute of his reading life scheduled.   But maybe I am off base here. I would love to hear a librarian’s viewpoint on why books aren’t being checked out of a library.

Another thought on this point though, is how many times have I gone to the library and not checked out a book, but used them while I was there?  Only probably a billion times, and that doesn't show up on check-out records.

Either way, the principal may as well save his money on the Kindles if he thinks they are going to give his students access to more books. To replace the library's collection of books he is buying eighteen Kindles. There are 450 students at the school. I hope that eighteen in the article was a typo.

Honestly, I really do think the new technology is wonderful, and the electronic readers can certainly fill a need at times. I applaud the school for wanting to stay at the forefront of technology. It could be their entire student body is quite wealthy (from the 42K tuition I’m guessing they are) and perhaps all these students have volumes of real books in personal libraries, and their own personal Kindles as well, so the school library was seen as a redundancy (reaching), but I really see this as an aberration rather than a model for the vast majority of libraries—the 12K cappuccino machine is a wee bit of a tip-off that we’re not on planet Earth anymore. Not the norm or the model and I sure hope not the “start of a new era” as their math teacher described it. At least not in my neck of the woods.

What are you thoughts? Short-sighted? Brilliant? A tad extreme? Any other advantages to the the paper variety of books?

How would you feel if your local library did the same?

Mary E. Pearson is the author of five novels for teens, most recently, The Miles Between just out in September, and newly out in paperback, The Adoration of Jenna Fox which has been optioned by 20th Century Fox for a major motion picture and translated into thirteen languages, both from Henry Holt Books.

Blake Reitz
1. brreitz
Didn't this happen in Rainbows End? And the 18 Kindles is bad enough, even if it's not a typo and they mean 180 Kindles. I can't imagine this work well for the students

On a side note, given the suspected economic class, I wonder if there's a way for students to access the school's library on their own Kindles. I've spent more then a Kindle on textbooks in a semester before, and would jump at the chance to download digital versions for a reduced fee(or free! come on!).

So when's the book sale at?
2. nkash001
I think e-books are a great thing, just as the iPod was for music. I say stop being sentimental and get over it. Print is dead.
Melissa Ann Singer
3. masinger
One thing about students not using the library to check out books . . .

At dd's middle school, all the classrooms have libraries and the school has a big library.

But there's no time set aside for the students to visit the library. If they want to do so, they have to sacrifice part of their lunch period (or of the lunch recess) or go after school, when the library is kept open until 3:30 or 4 (school ends at 2:20; extended day classes end at 3:10).

I think my intensely book-oriented child went to the school's library once or twice in all of 7th grade. Generally she went to the public library or the bookstore for reading matter and research.
Bill Siegel
4. ubxs113
I buy most most my music online now but occasionally will dish out a little extra for the CD of a beloved artist and I think the same will happen to books. They'll still be printed but it won't be as ubiquitous as before. It's not really a bad thing because I don't think that reading on the ereaders of the future will be comparable to reading online. It's simply a matter of changing taste.
James Jones
5. jamesedjones
You are absolutely right about the spatial quality of real books. The feel is everything when you slide one off the shelf at the library or bookstore.

Plus, with a book I don't get lost even if I forget the page number. There's always that 'spot' I can identify by judgment when running my thumb across the corner of the pages just before I open it. I might have to flip forward or back a few, but the idea of where I was when I put the book down is still in my mind. Keeping track of the bar at the bottom or side of the screen is not sufficient for me.

Your idea about catastrophic events might not be a big concern with all of the back-ups and safeguards that are inherent in these programs, but what about the little issues? Living in the DFW area in Tx, we get about 3 or 4 instances per year where the power goes out from thunderstorms. My PC and TV are gone until they get around to fixing it, but a candle and a book will keep me going.
Luke M
6. lmelior
I guess it highly depends on the library. My high school library (300 students max, town of 5000 people) was not open to the public and pretty much only stocked reference materials. Of course being a public school we wouldn't have had the money to do something like this, but the library would've gotten much more use than the sporadic required use in certain literature or language classes.

My current local library, however, is fantastic. The few times I wanted a book they didn't have, I requested they purchase it and I had it, brand new, in my hands less than a week later. I walk out with 3-5 books (and the occasional children's DVD) twice a month. I'm going today for their half-price book sale, where I once picked up seven books (well worn copies of classic sci-fi and fantasy of course!) for less than $3. Sure it's always packed with people using the computers to visit facebook and people checking out movies, but there are always at least one or two other people or families walking out with armloads of books.

So in this case I can't imagine my local library doing this anytime soon. However, once e-readers drop to a more reasonable price, I wouldn't rule that possibility out.
Angela Korra'ti
7. annathepiper
I've been devouring books since I was tiny, and I love me a physical book as much as the next person... but I'm also a tech geek, and I think it's not really fair to blame an ebook for the temptation to be distracted by the other bells and whistles that a reading device might offer.

For example, when I'm reading on the bus, if I'm suitably engrossed in a story, I really do not care if it's a physical book I'm reading or if I'm whipping through Stanza on my iPhone. :)

That said, though, I totally agree that physical books do have the advantages of still being available when the power is out, when the server goes down, or if you happen to drop your reading device and it gets run over by a bus. And yeah, there's the whole question of whether ebook providers can yoink back content you've bought--which is why I've started buying my ebooks only from vendors that will let me download backup copies right onto my own computer as well as to my iPhone.

Meanwhile, eighteen Kindles do seem woefully inadequate for the number of students being served, and never mind the possibility that these students will be severely hard on the devices, or even that there may be theft attempts.

I agree as well with comment #4 that print books will still have their place even if ebooks become more ubiquitous. I certainly am already thinking about which authors I must buy in print, and for those authors, I will continue to do so.
Karen Lofstrom
8. DPZora
I make ebooks (for Distributed Proofreaders), I buy and read ebooks, I'm SOLD on the format. However ... there are a great many books that aren't available in e. The principal should have kept those! He only displays his ignorance of the state of e-publishing if he thinks that dead-tree books are now obsolete.
9. SWS
It sounds like this Academy is less interested in education and more interested in retaining students and their high tuition fees. The "Learning Center" will no doubt go on the cover of all new marketing materials promoting the school - it's a rich kid playpen.
Considering the state of the contemporary learning institution, this move is likely less about books being old and more about books being bulky. It's cheaper to repurpose library space to make the shiny new "Learning Center" than it is to build a new annex. The idea that books are old is just being used to justify the land-grab. This is the real danger - that other schools might catch on to this as away to gain more real estate, and more libraries will get sacrificed and turned into lounges.
Jason Ramboz
10. jramboz
I came to make much the same point DPZora (#8) did. I'd estimate that the vast majority of books currently in circulation do not exist in any electronic format. Many more exist only as scans with no OCRed, searchable text. And that's only books; what about periodicals?

I'm deeply afraid that push toward ebooks and the marginalization of print media will result in vast amounts of information being lost forever. This could be a result of corruption of data, loss of physical books/periodicals, or even just forgetting that certain works exist. As anyone who's studied Classics can tell you, there are so many ancient works that are now completely lost, and we only know of their existence from titles or small quotes. I'd hate to see history repeat itself.
Torie Atkinson
11. Torie
I have a Kindle, a Sony, and an iPhone. I make ebooks. I read ebooks. I spend an incredible number of hours reading on a screen, both computer and e-ink, without a problem. The convenience of the digital format has certainly won me over.

But I still love dead tree books. I think with research in particular it's a mixed blessing. When I was a kid, I would go to the card catalog and I'd go look at the file on, say, pirates. Then I would check out every book on pirates in the library. This doesn't really work anymore. You can do keyword searches and get a list of books, but there's really nothing like finding a section in the library, plopping yourself down, and browsing. The process of flipping through things, evaluating the different possibilities, and ultimately making a selection is so indescribably satisfying. It feels like archaeology. I find that now I need to have a really good idea of what it is I'm looking for to get the most out of my searches. On the one hand, it makes me more likely to find the books I need; on the other, I'm less likely to stumble on things.

With fiction, I, like Mary, love the feeling of progress. Halfway there. Two thirds. SO CLOSE. But I also have spatial memory, so if I see something that reminds me of something earlier in the book, I can flip through and find it because I remember that it was on the right side of the page about halfway down. Flipping back in an ebook is more burdensome.

And the browsing issue remains. While electronic texts are very skimmable, they're not very browsable, and I think that's a big shortcoming.

Ultimately, though, the dealbreaker for me is loanability. My friends and I are readers. We constantly exchange books, talk about them, fight over them. I love looking at their stacks and picking something out I never would've picked up otherwise, just based on the packaging of it. You lose that when all you get is a scrollable title and author list--and one you can't share, to boot!

So I'm happy to supplement my library with ebooks, but I wouldn't for a moment consider replacing it. Not at this stage, anyway.
Bill Siegel
12. ubxs113
I don't own any e-reader but, what Torie said...
13. grilojoe77
I admit, my first thought was, like the first comment, when and where is the book sale? I have mixed feelings about the decision to get kindles and get rid of physical books. Part of me thinks that if it will get kids to read, then I'm all for it. I mean, I have students who don't do much reading unless assigned to do so and even then they'll try to get out of it if they can. With ebook readers, they may not have the same attachment to the book as an object, but if they'll read something on a kindle and they stay interested, then at least they're reading. On the other hand, I can't help but be a little disappointed that these kids won't have an appreciation for the physicality of the book, the smell of the pages, its weight in their hand, the art on the cover and the story synopsis on the back.

Books have been around for a very, very long time and I doubt that they will die out quickly. The form has proven to be very durable. I think that we'll have to wait and see if ebooks prove to be as durable and that will take some time.
Vanessa Paolantonio
14. vanessa_p
I'm all for the portability and environmental value of Kindles and e-books, even though I don't own one. I now buy almost all of my music on iTunes except for the few favorite musicians that I simply must have packaging/jewel cases for. I wonder if the new technology will eventually put book stores like Barnes and Noble out of business in the same way that Virgin Megastore closed. I'm sure B&N is crossing their fingers over it.

As a book cover designer I must admit I'm a little scared. I enjoy designing covers and spines, using effects like foil, emboss, and spot gloss. It's a type of packaging that's tangible. From a design standpoint, e-readers have huge implications. Eventually they will need to be compatible with color graphics and perhaps even motion graphics, especially for novels heavy in illustration, like children's, graphic novels, and academic books.

It going to be interesting how e-books will be packaged and sold in the future. How will people browse for new authors in a sea (the internet) of information? The book shelf is going to morph into Netflix without the CD's.
15. RandolphF
Affordances. That's what makes books, computers, and Kindles different. A book you can hold, page through, and so on. Reading with a computer provides distractions and also makes many people uncomfortable because of the rigid postures required and difficulties with lighting. On the other hand, it's an excellent way to present animation. A Kindle has the pleasant property of being a portal into a very large library, but also lacks the physical virtues of books, is subject to easy complete failure, the contents are subject to remote removal, and is very limited in its graphical capabilities.
piaw na
16. piaw
I stopped buying paper books and only checking them out at the library to read for years and years --- I was out of room at home.

Then the Kindle came out, and I started buying books. In fact, I spent more on books last year than the previous 5 years combined (I also read 90 books last year).

It seems to me that eliminating the need to have lots of room to be able to store knowledge by going to densely packed bits is the way to go. You can fight it, but if you're a writer, you should be very happy about the new market in which used books can't be resold.
17. RandolphF
" you should be very happy about the new market in which used books can't be resold."

Or perhaps unhappy because your used books can't generate buzz for your new books, fewer readers will see them, and a book has to be bought full-price to be given as a gift. And very unhappy at a market where people who can't pay full price can't read your books at all.

"You should be happy" is concern troll language.
18. Jim Henry III
masinger @3: That accords with my experience as well. I home-schooled during my high school years, but in middle school, the school library was of little or no use to me because there was no convenient time to use it. I used the public library 20 or 30 times more often. (The public library was also better stocked, which was probably also an influence.)

In elementary school there was time set aside for visiting the library and I borrowed a lot of books from it during those years.

On the more general theme: I like etexts, and have read a passel of novels and longish nonfiction books as well as shorter works on a computer screen as far back as the early 1990s, but even now there are conditions when no etext reader is as convenient as a book, and there are scads of books that are unavailable in any etext format.
Kage Baker
19. kagebaker
I just can't get over the fact that this school, apparently, has money to burn. In this day and age?
Gary Young
20. Gary
I love ebooks, and when I can get an electronic copy of something that is on my bookshelf at home, then I save the electronic copy and get rid of the old paperback. Thank you Project Gutenberg.

I personally don't experience the wonderful sensuality of reading ink on paper that others have described. I can lose myself in an ebook just as easily as I used to lose myself in a paper book.

So, in theory, I have no objection to having an electronic library at a school instead of a library of paper books. As others have said, however, I don't think that this is practical yet.

The school has not provided equivalent functionality in their electronic 'resource center.' For this to work, they would need one kindle per student plus more for the teachers plus spares, not 18 total. They would also have to be able to replace every one of the 20,000 paper books with a digital equivalent.

I am sure that most of those 20,000 books are not available digitally.

So, it may be agood idea, and it may become common in the future, but they have rushed in, where they should have waited.

They should have started slowly, by getting rid of paper books that are readily available as free ebooks. For example, Shakespeare's and Marlowe's plays will be on their shelves in paper, and could be replaced with electronic copies.

21. Meg D
I think the folks who are making a distinction between 'school library' and 'general public library' may be on to something... I volunteered at my high school library, back in the day, and I would wince if I heard that this had happened there, but if I needed serious information even back then, I headed to the public library myself.

The public library, though...

my husband and I have been gradually renovating our circa 1900 two-family house... starting with 'jack and replace the center beam' and working our way up and out. Aside from the electrical and plumbing, it's been DIY all the way, and it would have been much more difficult without the ability to go to the county library, get to the appropriate shelf, and browse for readability and completeness. I usually browse 5 to 15 books (whatever is available) and winnow to 2 to 4, which I take home. We read/skim the lot, and the best (or sometimes two best) stay with us through the project. If we fall in love, we may buy one book-- assuming it's still in print (our favorites often date from the '50s, although by now we have a few modern publishers whose books we assume will be more useful to us than others.)

It is equally true that online forums and other modern electronic venues have given us vital information which we could not have found locally at all (ask me about the pitfalls of patching lime mortar with portland cement... and come to think of it, all of the HVAC calculation and ductwork books were bought direct from the industry group.) We've used many PDFs and downloaded texts along the way, and been grateful for their availability, but there is no way we could have substituted e-books for paper ones across the board and gotten equivalent quality overall.
Just my (nonfiction) reflections,
Meg D
Robin McLaughlin
22. RLM
I own a Kindle and I absolutely love it. To me it has totally elevated the reading experience. I have zero desire to go back to reading paper books, except in cases where I have to (I already own it and want to reread, out of print and only available used, etc.). However, I'm talking about recreational novel reading here.

I am completely appalled at the decision this school has made. They're about 20-30 years too soon, assuming it will ever be a good idea. As others mentioned, I'm willing to bet that of the 20,000 books they had most of them are probably not available as ebooks. So they're getting rid of knowledge with no replacement.

I was also a bit appalled at the low checkout rate. Don't those kids have to write papers and do research? While I didn't spend a huge amount of time in the junior high and high school libraries there were always classes that required going there and doing research for assigned papers. Learning how to do proper research in a libary is an extremely important skill to learn. With no books that makes it a bit difficult!

I think providing computers and e-readers is a gread idea. But in ADDITION to books! Not instead of them. Especially when they think only 18 is sufficient. The availability of information online and in ebook format is simply nowhere equal to what is available in paper book form and it will take a very long time until that comes even close to being true.
Ursula L
23. Ursula
Adding e-books and Kindles to the library might make sense.

But replacing the existing library collection with e-books makes no sense.

The school district has, over the years, invested thousands (perhaps millions) of dollars into building up the library collection. None of it is rendered obsolete or unusable by the addition of e-books.

This move puts the entire school investment in the library to date to complete waste, for no good reason.
Ian Gazzotti
24. Atrus
I do read ebooks (though on monitor, not having an ebook reader) and so far I still prefer the fuzzy warm feeling of curling up with a dead tree edition, turning the pages, and so on. (I'm still hoping for real e-paper books a la Caprica; those would be cool)

The exception are manuals and textbooks: ebooks make it quicker and easier to search inside them and use them as reference. It's so much easier to have 10 PDFs open on your monitor rather than 10 humongous textbooks occupying your whole desk and part of the floor.

This still cannot apply to this new "modern" library, because ebook readers can usually only display one book at a time, in paperback size, in 4 colors at best - so not really useful for comparing details and full-colour schematics in several books at a time.

All in all, I can't seem to understand how this school thinks the new library is a change for the best. Adding a digital library side by side to the paper one, yes; substituting 20'000 books with 18 Kindles, no way.
25. ttam sdrawkcab
I don't mind e-books, and as a geek am always happy to see more people reading. As a Techie I'm fascinated with new technology especially when it gives faster and easier access to information. But to hear of a school completely doing away with their library and replacing it? That just sounds utterly ludicrous.

I'm not entirely sure as to how many books are in the e-reader format these days, but I assume its only a minor fraction of what is out there in dead tree copies. Not to mention the whole, who has access to 'your' e-reader and what constitutes 'your' books.

As far as the school system replacing its library with these e-readers it sounds feasible but at the same time, I can't help but find fault with this. 18 e-readers for an entire student body, not to mention teachers and staff? Even assuming they meant 180 its still ludicrous. Just on wear and theft alone, roughly half of their readers would be missing or inoperable by the end of the first year. I don't know about your schools, or this school system, but in the school I went to 7 times out of 10 the school library computers were down for the count and they were big clunky pieces of machinery. I don't even want to think about if they were easily carry able.

In short on a individual level I can see this as feasible, but any larger undertaking, such as a school, I can only foresee disaster.
26. Dustin K Cramer
I may read a lot on my computer, but when I want to read a book, I want to read a BOOK. Paper, smell, weight, and all. I think that the idea that physical copies of books are worthless is nonsense. I went to my high school library (I graduated last year) about once a week, and my classes also used the library often, though not always for the books.

This seems pretty implausible as well, replacing a library of THOUSANDS of books with 18 Kindles? That is not going to work out well, even if they have all 10,000 books bought from Amazon so that they can be re-downloaded free.

So, yeah,I would say this is both short-sighted and extreme.
27. Jo.
It's always good to try to stay up with technology, but giving away the entire book stock?? especially if you're only basing this on one day's library checkout? They could've bought a few kindles to test the student's reactions and usage time to it before unloading their stock. It seems a bit radical to just jump in. I'm sure the other libraries were very happy for their latest contribution from this school.

And while e-books and e-readers are similar to the ipod technology wise, they are different in that you still listen to music the same way you would have if you still bought cd's and even cassettes. You'd have your little boombox or cd/cassette player, but now you have your little ipod which you listen to music the same it just has some gadgets and more compact. The way you'd read an e-book is not the same way or have the same feeling you'd get from reading the "outdated" paper book. Like mentioned you don't get that feeling of "omg just a few pages more to the climax". I do not want to sit in bed with my laptop heating up my lap reading an e-book when I can do it so easily with my "old-fashioned" paper book. Forget about reading in the tub as well. I do not in anyway view paper books as out of date or out of style. They've been around for centuries and I doubt that will change.

As for the school, it just sounds like they're trying to be trendy and create a Starbucks type feeling to their library where people will come and hang. For those that are not of the 48 people checking out books, they'll of course love the hang around atmosphere. For those that do love to read, I hope they can adjust to fighting over kindles like people fight over getting a computer station at any other library. Hopefully there's a really good bookstore nearby that'll sell those outdated materials to the ones that wish to have them.
Linton Robinson
28. linrobinson
It's called "The Future", get used to it. It's weird that SF people are among the most reactionary about electronic books.

What really gets me about this is the "book smell" thing. You see it every time anybody squeals that books are sacred and will always be around even if there is no tree left standing and the whole world access information by cerebral inplants.

Books don't really have much of a smell. The "new book smell" is mostly composed of toxic chemicals.

What this is, I've decided after much head-scratching over its continual and irrational recurrence in discussions, is an artifact brought in to bolster the books-uber-alles fetish. (Yes, fetish: obviously smell is not part of the reading process)

It's hard not to be impressed by the advantages of files on book readers over paper books. Without even getting into the environmental impact (and don't forget the part about all the petrol used to ship those heavy books out--and back), size/weight advantages, and cost, there are little things like searchability that make eBooks (especially certain textbooks) highly superior for their purpose.

Their purpose being sources of information, not room fresheners. Funny, you never hear smell cited as a reason to keep horses around instead of switching to cars... or keep gas cars instead of going electric.
John Sloan
29. johnsloan
I don't know if you've been into a high school library lately, but it's an impenetrable fortress from which no piece of paper may leave.
I've been out of school for a decade, but I recall leaving my bags and notebooks at the door behind a rope for fear that one of the books might be stolen (I went to an high school in an affluent city where crime was not a typical concern) the high school library was a typically uncomfortable experience.
While I appreciate your viewpoint, students with more free time aren't going to go to the library... ALL of the students who will EVER use the library at any school are already using it.

I love books. But keeping a school library stocked and organized just isn't worth the cost and effort considering what comes of it in the end. It's too large of a room to be so much wasted space that very few people are using. It's bold and extreme, I think they could have reduced a lot of waste and old, outdated books that haven't been checked out in however many years, maybe converted half the library or something... but I don't think it's a completely ill-advised move.
30. Erik Huntoon
I am still partial to a real book for my personal tastes for a variety of reasons. Most have already been mentioned by others already but one of my main reasons is a real book gets worn with repeated readings. It's something you can see and feel and also something that no e-book will ever have. I am a big fan of the early works of Chuck Palahniuk and wound up buying his first 4 books in paperback form from a friend who was upgrading to hardbacks. His old copies had probably been ready about half a dozen people each and some of those people had read the books more then once. In other words, they were definitely showing how much they had gotten around. It is a joy in my mind to pick up one of those copies to re-read and think of how many times the pages have been flipped through by various people and enjoyed and that's something an e-book just can't replicate.

Don't get me wrong, I have read a number of books in electronic format, and I don't mind it. If the Kindle were much cheaper and backlit I would pick one up in a heartbeat. On a slightly different note, I just saw yesterday that Microsoft has a tablet PC concept that consists of dual 7" touch screens that open along a spine similar to a book. I would love to see ebooks on something like that where you could flip electronic pages with the flick of your finger on the screen.
31. KathAvery
I think there is nothing like having the book that you mom read to you in your own home to read to your children. I have several books that my mother and grandmother and great-grandmother owned. These books were read to me when I was little, and I read them to my daughter. When my daughter is excited to hear 'Green Eggs and Ham' by Dr Suess, I think about how my mother felt when she read the same book to me over and over.

Does anyone remember "storytime" when we were kids? How the teacher or librarian would read a book but hold it open and off to the side so that we could all see the pictures and read the words too (if we were lucky to grab a good seat)? Lets say that Kindals replace books. How can kids see the pictures or enjoy the book with friends if its on a small screen?

Kindals are not the same as real books and I dont think that they will ever replace real books.
Blue Tyson
32. BlueTyson

Weigh in hand? Right - carrying big fat textbooks around is a pleasant experience?


"Books don't really have much of a smell. The "new book smell" is mostly composed of toxic chemicals."

-- That's funny, as I got a non-fiction book new the other day that stank terribly for just this reason. Unusable. It is now stuffed under the couch hoping that dog and dust smell will improve it a bit. :)

As for the OP

Probably a large chunk of that library, if non-fiction is somewhat useless.

What if it is 23 year old chemistry books and 12 year old computer books, generally speaking? A complete waste of space.

You do release that most new academic research is in electronic databases of papers (no idea if the school has access to those, but it is pretty likely they could). Talking to the state librarians here, the paper journals that get used are pretty much the old ones, with no electronic version.

So for actual research, I imagine the school has computers and internet access, too.

The other thing is this - out of the zillions of schools etc. ONE place is trying an experiment? This is surely something that education should be doing - experimenting with other models.

A wealthy, well-resourced school would seem to be a sensible place to give it a go.

Academic libraries are quite different to recreational libraries, too. It would be silly for a public library to do this, currently.

An anecdote for you - I know a master's student (in library science actually), attending a local uni who has never even been in the university library and is doing quite nicely.
33. bob dylan
"Your old road is rapidly fading.
Please get out of the new one if you can't lend a hand,
'cause the times they are a-changing."
34. Hapalochlaena
I'm no longer a library user and probably shouldn't weigh into the digital vs print argument in that context, so I won't. (Except to say that disposing of the existing p-books is incredibly wasteful and short-sighted: I'm sure that many of these books don't have a digital counterpart.)

Some of my reasons for choosing e-books over p-books are enumerated in a comment I made on Dear Author and which is reproduced on my blog, and I won't repeat them here.

I have been a reader for some 40 years and have a huge p-book storage and organization problem which would be even worse if my collection hadn't been severely culled several times to keep the costs of moving house (internationally) to a minimum. I decided this year to move to e-books and chose the Sony PRS-700 (despite some concerns about display quality), and I'll address some of the points in the OP and comments upthread from the perspective of a Sony user.

Six months on I find that I don't miss the tactile experience at all, probably because the Sony is as close to a real book as an electronic device can get: it's about the same size and weight of a hardback and I can hold it and turn the pages (i.e. press the page buttons) with one hand.

The page number is displayed onscreen (x of y pages), and if I don't want to flick pages one by one I use the touchscreen and either use the slider or enter the exact page number.

I can resize the text if I want.

I can read several books at once, and when I return to any book, it opens to the page I was reading last.

There are no distractions: the Reader is merely a book-like device with an unused MP3 feature: no WiFi, no Web, no email. Just text and black-and-white images. It does have to be recharged, but each charge lasts more than a week with a 4-5 hour, 7-day usage pattern (no backlight).

My books don't disappear. There is no remote update on the Sony -- the Kindle's weak point -- and if there was I'd deactivate it. I have multiple "repaired" backups on CD. I use Calibre to manage my ebook database, convert formats and transfer files between my desktop PC and the Sony.

I've bought books at a faster rate than ever before: 87 in the six months since I bought the reader. I get more books for the buck because I don't have to pay the shipping charges any more, either directly or indirectly.

I don't intend to dispose of my p-book library, but as long as I can find e-versions of the books I want, e- is the way for me.

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