Digital Libraries – Goodbye to Books?

Will books ever really become a thing of the past? Is all the hype about bookless libraries just hype? When computers entered our lives we were told we had entered the paperless society, but this never eventuated. Will it be just the same with books?

This post by Kerrie Smith recently caused a huge commotion in the Australian library community – A Library Without Books –  and the empty Libray shelves in this video are quite confronting if you’re a teacher-librarian:  Education in 2025.  Also have a look at this news article: Digital School Library Leaves Book Stacks Behind

Girl Hugging Words

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While books remain an integral part of the lives of Baby Boomers and even Gen Xers, they don’t hold such an elevated position in the lives of many teenagers and young adults, who are happy for all their infomation needs to be met via a screen. Author Marieke Hardy has written a 20-part book which was commissioned by The Age newspaper, and sent out to mobile phones over a 4 week period.

The article goes on to say, “It’s probable that this is Australia’s first sizeable fiction written for the mobile phone. But in Japan, millions of readers are devouring novels on their phones, often when commuting to work or school. They download the novels — usually racy romances — and read them in 70-word instalments. As many as 86 per cent of high school girls read these phone stories, and the novels subsequently turned into print form have raced to the top of bestseller lists.”

Read about Marieke here: 

 http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/marieke-brings-unique-tale-to-your-mobile-20091009-gqgq.html  and watch a video of her here:  http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/the-future-of-books-20091011-grv7.html

This is what New York Times readers had to say about eBooks: (Does the Brain Like eBooks?

All reading is not migrating to computer screens. So long as books are cheap, tough, easy to “read” from outside (What kind of book is this? How long is it? Is this the one I was reading last week? Let’s flip to the pictures), easy to mark up, rated for safe operation from beaches to polar wastes and — above all — beautiful, they will remain the best of all word-delivery vehicles.

I assume that technology will soon start moving in the natural direction: integrating chips into books, not vice versa. I might like to make a book beep when I can’t find it, search its text online, download updates and keep an eye on reviews and discussion. This would all be easily handled by electronics worked into the binding. Such upgraded books acquire some of the bad traits of computer text — but at least, if the circuitry breaks or the battery runs out, I’ve still got a book.  (David Gelernter)

Electronic reading has become progressively easier as computer screens have improved and readers have grown accustomed to using them. Still, people read more slowly on screen, by as much as 20-30 percent. Fifteen or 20 years ago, electronic reading also impaired comprehension compared to paper, but those differences have faded in recent studies.

Reading on screen requires slightly more effort and thus is more tiring, but the differences are small and probably matter only for difficult tasks.  In one study, workers switched tasks about every three minutes and took over 23 minutes on average to return to a task. Frequent task switching costs time and interferes with the concentration needed to think deeply about what you read.  (Sandra Aamodt)

So what is different? It is not just a matter of comparing reaction times or reading comprehension; it’s the entire experience. Reading a Google book enables the reader to search for words or passages throughout the text. It’s effortless to skip to a juicy section or to go back and reread a memorable part. Contrast how long it takes to skim to a particular passage in a paper book, unless of course it is bookmarked or the page corner is bent.

Hypertext offers loads of advantages. If while reading online you come across the name “Antaeus” and forget your Greek mythology, a hyperlink will take you directly to an online source where you are reminded that he was the Libyan giant who fought Hercules. And if you’re prone to distraction, you can follow another link to find out his lineage, and on and on. That is the duality of hyperlinks. A hyperlink brings you to information faster but is also more of a distraction. (Gloria Mark)

As a recent adopter of e-books, I am extremely pleased with my new way of indulging in an old habit: reading multiple books at once. I can have 5 or 6 books going at a time, have them all with me whenever I want to read any of them, and choose the one I want to read based on what I feel like reading at the moment. My e-book reader keeps track of what page I’m on in all of them, so I don’t waste time flipping pages (I’m terrible at using bookmarks).

I do love books – they’re nice to hold, look at, and keep on my shelf – but an e-book reader is awfully convenient. (Reader’s comment)

the future of libraries – with or without books

Google Sparks eBook Fight with Kindle