If Two Formats Enter, Why Does One Format Have to Leave?

From The Answer Sheet over at the Washington Post:

What is important to children is what is important to parents. For children to understand the joy of reading a book and be comfortable with new reading technology, both need to be important to parents. There is nothing wrong with a Kindle, but it is a Kindle, not a book. There is nothing wrong with a library kiosk, but it is a kiosk, not a library. There is a well known poem called “Children Learn What They Live,” and children definitely learn what they live when it comes to books and digital media.

If children only have access to digital books, they will lose out. If children only have access to print books, they will lose out. And most importantly, if parents do not spend time bonding with their children through both, they will lose out. We should not have to choose.

This article is a healthy piece of ebook sanity* when it comes the building debate regarding paper versus digital books for children. It presents the issue for what it is: a false choice. For all the talk about the physical book being dead, I hate to break it to some people, but it’s been dead for a long time. There was only so much you can do to change the book as a physical item. And, for those who are literal, it’s been dead even longer because it’s made out of dead trees.

I’d even reckon to say that digital books are also a dead medium as well. They are merely words and pictures on a screen, something that has been mastered by the motion pictures and television industry for the last hundred or so years. You can add in the touch screen element to it, but it’s still a relatively non-sensory experience. You can certainly enhance the visuals, add in some sounds, make it interactive, but then it starts broaching the line of whether it is still a book or not. And that’s a whole different conversation.

When people say that ebooks are evolving, it’s a bit of a misnomer. They are not changing into a new item or technology; they are merely incorporating existing technologies into their repertoire. It’s less of a fish turning into a bird and more of a man learning to cook with fire. It’s no more of a miracle of modern wonder than the next generation of iPods having a larger storage capacity.

The essence of the discussion is words on paper versus words on a screen. But the question remains: does it really matter? For me, I’m guessing not. I’d like to take the more pragmatic approach and go with the answer, “Whatever works.”

* Stealin’ your term, Griffey!

(h/t: Library Stuff)

(The blog title is a reference to this.)

3 thoughts on “If Two Formats Enter, Why Does One Format Have to Leave?

  1. Thank you for this. I am SO BEYOND TIRED of the ebook vs. print book debate. (Not that my library will ever have money for either.) I love them both, for different reasons. One does not replace the other. Can’t we all just get along??

    • I know! For all the people who keep yelling that the book is dead, now I’m more interested in finding out what they mean. It does get people’s attention, though, you have to admit that!

  2. People are way too hung up on containers. What does it matter whether ideas are scrawled on cave walls, scrolls, printed books or digitalized readers? Containers become obsolete and die, but the spirit and dynamic evolution of knowledge and creation will continue. Isn’t that what really matters?

    And if one wants to have a conversation that really matters, it would be refreshing to hear lots of librarians discussing ways to encourage members to have opportunities to create their own knowledge and knowledge networks. Libraries need to be about more than just providing a bunch of stuff for free. We need to offer opportunities, programming and motivation for members of all ages to connect and be innovative and creative with the resources.

    Or we can fixate on containers until not only the book is dead, but we are, too.

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