More Potential of Ebooks

Read my earlier posts about the potential of ebooks:

I look forward to authors exploring the ebook format as something more than just a different package for print books. Ebooks are a format, distinct from print, and can do things that print can’t, tell stories in ways that print could never accomplish.

It’s more than the obvious idea of integrating multimedia elements (but how cool would Rigg’s “Peculiar Children” books be if the images were subtle animated GIFs?). Ebooks aren’t ink on paper, which means the text doesn’t have to be permanent. The words themselves could be made changeable.

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Another Benefit of Ebooks for Libraries

A friend of mine was recently introduced to a certain genre fiction author who has been writing an ongoing series for the past couple of decades. My friend naturally wanted to start this series at the beginning and read it all the way through, in order. So, my friend turned to their local public library.

Ongoing series pose a difficulty for library collections. The earliest titles stop circulating after so many years, or our copies become worn out and damaged beyond repair. As a result, these items get weeded. Sometimes there’s not enough demand to justify restocking an older title. Sometimes we can’t restock them because we can’t afford the physical shelf space to hold them.

Frequently, publishers stop printing older titles from their catalogs, or distributors stop carrying them, which means libraries often can’t replace these titles in our collections even if we see a need for them. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for libraries to have more recent titles in ongoing fiction series on their shelves but not the earliest ones.

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Once Again, Print Proves Its Worth

Perhaps it’s ironic, but the more time I spend as a digital librarian, learning and exploring new technology, finding new and better ways to provide technology to our patrons, the more I find myself passionately advocating for the importance of print and the necessity of its continued presence in our reading culture.

Once again, print proves its worth:

Reading Books Instead of Kindles Can Improve Your Memory, Concentration and Good Looks by Jon Levine (posted on Arts.Mic on August 20, 2015)

Nothing in this article surprises me (although I get frustrated every time someone implies that ebooks aren’t books). It all pretty well stands to reason:

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Digital Comics for Libraries: Good News!

In my recent interview for Corner Shelf, Rebecca Vnuk asked me what kinds of things my library’s collections are most in need of.

My answer: digital comics. Specifically—Marvel and DC.

As of June 25, 2015, hoopla digital offers DC titles in digital format. This includes titles from their Vertigo imprint. Their collection includes several of the most important issues and graphic novels in DC / Vertigo’s catalog: Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Frank Miller’s Dark Knight, The Killing Joke, Gaiman’s Sandman

It’s not everything from DC but it’s a lot of the really good stuff.

This is huge. This makes me really happy. This could be a game-changer.

Kudos to hoopla!

hoopla digital logo

Print Books vs. Digital Books & the Reading Brain

For a variety of reasons, for the past few days I’ve been thinking even more than I usually do about the differences between print books and digital books, and how our brain processes them. There are differences in how we read in different media, and it’s important for us to understand them. If our brain interacts with different formats differently, it means that different formats will best serve different purposes.

It’s our job as librarians to fulfill our patrons’ information needs as best we can. Selecting the best format for the information is increasingly important.

This is my latest attempt to summarize my understanding of how and why print and digital differ.

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The Rewards of Reading in Print

David Ulin is spot-on in his analysis of the differences between reading in print and e-reading:

Reading in the material world by David Ulin (posted by the Los Angeles Times on February 24, 2015)

This quote, in particular, resonates with me:

[O]n a device such as an iPad or an iPhone, we never lose sight of ourselves—they are customized environments, extensions of our psyches—whereas the print book exists in a different realm. It requires an externalized commitment, an accommodation, in which its otherness is part of the point.

Ebooks and print books will always offer different experiences and serve different purposes. Our cultural obsession with seeing them in competition with each other is incorrect and, I believe, does all readers a disservice.

Stop Calling It a “Bookless” Library

In his critique of the new “bookless” library in Texas, Adam Feldman states the essential value of libraries and librarians better than I’ve ever been able to:

This Librarian Is Not Impressed With Your Digital, No-Books Library (posted on Next City on August 8, 2014)

I’ve been following the development and launch of the BiblioTech Digital Library from the beginning. I have my own issues with it but there’s one thing in particular that bothers me:

Why do we keep calling it a “bookless” library?

This bothers me all the more because, as best I can tell, the people who created the BiblioTech library are the ones who first decided to call it that.

Let me make this as clear as I can:

Ebooks are books.

They’re legit. They’re not “less than” or ersatz or denigrated versions of books. Ebook collections at libraries aren’t “bookless” just because they’re digital.

It does libraries a disservice to devalue ebooks this way. Our patrons want ebooks and we devote significant time and effort to try and supply them. When we talk about ebooks as though they’re intrinsically second-class items, it demeans the wants & needs of our patrons, and it demeans our efforts & our work on this front.

If ebooks aren’t real books, then how do we justify the expense of maintaining e-collections?

We must get away from calling this thing a “bookless” library.

Amazon Unlimited

Last week, Amazon launched their new Kindle Unlimited service—$10 a month for unlimited ebook & e-audiobook loans direct through Amazon.

American Libraries Magazine wrote a reaction piece about it:

  • Amazon Unlimited by James LaRue (posted on American Libraries on July 18, 2014)

And Forbes posted this deliberately provocative op-ed piece:

A Google search turns up many more blogs and opinion pieces from librarians reacting to this. As one might expect, the Forbes post generated a tremendous hue-and-cry.
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The Real Problem Affecting Kids & Reading

This op-ed piece is an important contribution to the ongoing discussion of literacy and reading in our current culture:

Kids Don’t Read Books Because Parents Don’t Read Books by Jordan Shapiro (posted on Forbes on May 13, 2014)

It focuses on the essential point:

The most powerful influence on whether or not kids read, and grow up to be reading adults, is their parents.

Whether they read in print or on screens is secondary—the first requirement is that kids need to be taught to make reading an important part of their lives.

I admit that I get caught up in the “print vs. digital” argument (although I tend not to argue for one or the other, but to point out that this isn’t a competition).

There is evidence which shows that our brains handle written language differently between different presentation media, which can have an impact on retention and depth of comprehension, as well as the kind of deep, slow reading required to develop empathy.

I don’t want to minimize this evidence—but Mr. Shapiro is absolutely correct to point out that framing these discussions as essentially “print vs. digital” is a distraction from the true core issue:

Parents must make time to read to their children and actively engage them with the text.

Parents must take the time to read for themselves so their children see adults reading as a normal part of life.

This—more than any other factor—is what makes kids want to read, and keep reading for the rest of their lives.

The Importance of Deep Reading

I’ve long wondered about the differences between reading in print, reading online, and reading in mobile formats. Science is bearing out my belief that our brains apprehend and process language differently in different mediums.

Technology is changing the way we read, with a much greater emphasis on skimming and speed reading. Apps like Spritz—well-intentioned though they may be—intrinsically promote an idea that reading isn’t worth investing time, a belief that deep reading is flawed because it’s inefficient.

I can’t believe that this is a good thing. So I was very happy to read this article:

Reading Literature Makes Us Smarter and Nicer by Annie Murphy Paul (posted by Time on June 3, 2013)

It’s an excellent summary of the importance of deep reading. Intentional, invested, slow reading.
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