The Demise of Books?

I heard a news story on National Public Radio (NPR) this morning that said that the South Koreans were at the forefront of using digital textbooks. Their goal was to be completely digital by 2015.

The United States Secretary of Education also wants to go digital. He said, "Over the next few years, textbooks should be obsolete."

What ramifications does this mean for the publishing industry if the next generations of children grow up without holding printed books in their hands? Will the publishing industry have to go completely digital?

And what does this mean in general for "readers?"  Will children continue to be taught to read for the joy of reading? What implications will there be for children who grow up solely on digital devices.

Change is coming! I'm going take the positive side and hope that this will be a good thing for society. However, I'm sure there will be some fallout, some ramifications.

What do you think? How will this change our world?


  1. My gosh, I hope not!

    As a reader, I prefer my books in hardcover or paperback. I will be one of the absolute last hold-outs as far as e-readers are concerned.

    As an author, though, I recognize the value of e-books. In fact, my royalty statement came from my publisher today, and out of all the books sold this quarter, only a fraction of them were print. The rest were e-books. I understand the ease, the reduced cost and instant gratification factors, and I'm fine with that. Having options is great!

    As a parent, particularly a homeschooling one, I absolutely DO NOT want my children learning from a screen. No, no, no. We don't use textbooks as a general rule anyway. We use literature and "living books". But screen time is limited in our home and it is used as a reward, not an educational tool. I feel very strongly that the "old fashioned" and traditional ways have merit. I want my sons touching and interacting with the world.

    I truly hope bound books do not go the way of the dinosaur. It would be nice to have books last millions of years, like this world!

    I've seen arguments on both sides: They will go extinct! No, they will live on forever! No way I can make a prediction.

    Basically, I'd like everyone to be able to choose what works for them - not have an all or nothing world when it comes to things like this. :)

  2. I'll say one thing: this would solve schoolchildrens' heavy backpack dilemma!

  3. Do we really think that everything in print will be digitized in our lifetimes? Do we expect that all print matter will cease to exist? That we will be isolated introverts who cannot hold a live conversation? Of course not.

    We live in dynamic and interesting times. Schools are preparing our children for the future that they will inherit. For that, I applaud them. All of my children are proficient in digital applications as well as paper ones. I see it as an enhancement of their skill set, not a detractor.

    Why does it have to be all or nothing? I believe in a world where paper and digital co-exist peacefully. It was not that long ago, relatively speaking, when books were the purview of the aristocracy alone. With the advent of the printing press, things changed dramatically. They will change dramatically again.

    When the telephone was invented, libraries fought their inception fearing that noone would ever come to the library again. They were wrong. For those of us for whom books are our life, we roll with the changes and find new ways to engage readers. Frankly, I don't see that as a bad thing. A book in the hand in any format is a good thing. What is important are the words and ideas that they generate, not what physical format they take.

  4. While there is definitely something to be said for digital
    editions, I still prefer to hold a real book in my hand.

    Some of the high schools in the Chicago area have
    transitioned to having all their text books on iPads. This is good for the student's backs because they aren't carrying heavy books home every night.

    My daughter is a senior at a non-iPad high school but some of her books are digital and she accesses them online. She, like her mother, prefers to hold a real book in her hands. One evening she informed me that she needed a book for her literature class the next day. While it would have been easy to download the book from amazon onto her ipod touch, she insisted that we find a Barnes & Noble that had it in stock. At the time, I was a little upset that she had waited until the last minute, but secretly I was proud of her still wanting to hold a book in her hands.

    There is nothing like the smell of old books when you walk into a historic library!


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