Monday, March 22, 2010

Why You Shouldn't Run in Terror of Ebooks

I have never understood people who were afraid of technology. It's a point of much mocking and laughter in my family (as in: me making fun of my mom for not knowing what cookies are, and she taking away the homemade cookies for mocking her)--and I think it is, at least for my family, a generational thing that's a product of money. In short, my parents remember how much money we paid for our first computer, but I don't--so I was willing to play with it in such a way that might (and did) break it, all in the name of exploration.

But the long and short of it is that I actually quite like technology. Despite the fact that I got a minor in history. Despite the fact that I value old books in much the same way that some people value antiques. Despite the fact that I sometimes fear the rapidity in which technology is encompassing our daily lives.

Because I do think tech is pretty darn cool.

And I am actually pretty excited about the advent of ebooks.

But wait.

Let me clarify.

Not ebooks like this:

Because, really? That's just words on a screen. And slice it any way you like, that's not that different from words on a page.

No, I'm excited about ebooks like this:

Whatever your opinion on ebooks, that video is totally worth seeing. Because that's what we're looking towards. Not words on a screen. Ebooks aren't about that. Or, if they're about that now, they're not going to be about that in the future.

No, the future of ebooks, and tech's role in reading, is just starting to emerge because we're just starting to have technology that can catch up to the ingenuity of books developers' minds. We're just on the edge of it. If you check out the news site where I found the Penguin concept of ebooks above, you'll notice that most people's comments were along the lines of how unlikely they were to give a $500 gadget to a child to play with.

Sound familiar?

That's what I mean about tech just now starting to catch up with book developers--and readers. Because it won't be too much longer until the above picture is more commonplace. Etextbooks may very well replace paper textbooks--and hurrah for that! Think of how much cooler learning--and reading--will be for a student who can read about a scientific theory, then click on a link in their personal ereader to see a video of the experiment in progress? To learn about philosophy and zoom in on a personal picture of Raphael's School of Athens at the same time the teacher's lecturing about it? To not just read that Roosevelt believes the only thing we have to fear is fear itself, but to hear it?

But beyond that--how much more can literature be enriched if a reader has the option to toggle between just the words on the screen, and the author's notes on the inspiration behind the text? Or links to communities chatting about the book? Or the possibility to turn on the authors playlist while reading? Or an interview with the author embedded in scenes? Editor's notes?

This is what the future will hold. And so much more. Because technology is growing at a rate so fast that our ideas now may very well be outmoded tomorrow. Ereaders are just the first step. What our children will be reading from--and learning from, and playing with--has yet to even be invented.

And if you're still curious about what I, personally, am excited about in terms of tech, then just click here.


Unknown said...

I think that's a great way to get kids to want to read. Technology is great (until it won't work)

Bish Denham said...

I have mixed feelings, which is to say I'm feeling ambivalent about it. On the one hand I can easily understand and appreicate its uses as you've described. On the other hand...I see small children becoming even more isolated and less able to do and or imagine things for themselves. It can color for you which doesn't teach a child HOW to color. It entertains, but doesn't teach a child how to entertain him/herself.

Unknown said...

LOL. If you met my kids you'd know exactly why I'm hesitant to spent that much money for something breakable. On the other hand, maybe my reluctant reader wouldn't be so reluctant.

PS. I've got an award for you on my blog. :D

MeganRebekah said...

I love ebooks. I've been readong ebooks on my computer for years(before the handheld devices came out) because they're so convenient. basically, I'm lazy and sometimes driving to the bookstore was a hassle.

And I can't wait to see how the ipad changes ebooks. It's an exciting future!

Shannon Messenger said...

I love the idea of way better ebooks--but I hope there's still always a paper book too. I them.

And I think you're right--the money/cost of technology is a huge part of the issue. For me, it doesn't scare me to use technology. But I do find myself asking if I really need to spend x number of dollars on the shiny new gadget. And I HATE thinking about how much money in technology I'm carrying around. I mean, it used to be in your purse got stolen you were out the money in your wallet. Now I'd be out the money for my ipone, digital camera and sometimes my ipod. I can't IMAGINE having to worry about having an ipad in there, instead of a tattered paperback.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I spent a good 10 minutes over the weekend sharing my nook with a young man at the haircutter's shop. I'm guessing he was just barely out of his teens, but he couldn't wait to see what the nook could do. That was after I had been sharing it with my 11 year old.

The future is definitely coming with the kids and e-books.

Lydia Kang said...

There is one major thing that keeps me from getting an E-reader. I like to snack and read at the same time. Sloppy things. I don't want to get electrocuted and read at the same time!

Francis Poverello said...

As the parent of five children, I'm still skeptical as to the value of this technology.

In the 1950's, TV was sold as the greatest invention for education in the history of the world. Children would be able to SEE experiments and WATCH events from outside their classroom! Teachers would be irrelevant!

Yet what happened? TV, on the whole, has done more to reduce our children's education and desire to learn (and read) than it has increased it. No one in the 1950's really could see how TV would actually be used in the real world.

I fear that these new devices will just become the new TVs and gameboys and take children even further away from the simple joys of reading a book and directly interacting with their family and peers.

Unknown said...

WOW. There are some seriously awesome comments here. Thank you guys so much for your thoughtful additions to the conversation! I've tried to respond to most of you by email (but some of you don't have email listed in your Blogger profile)--but in case I missed anyone: THANKS! Love hearing these thoughts!