Monday, November 16, 2009

E-books vs physical books - two other factors

John Sledge writes, at Birmingham's Press Register on the 'fading of books' and while there are many articles on the topic, there were a couple of especially interesting paragraphs in this one.
  In my recent post about 18 or 19 reasons e-readers (currently, predominantly Kindles) might be chosen over traditional books, I never mentioned storage problems or the weight of books.  But the latter can be key for students especially, and storage space has become a problem for some institutions.

After a very heavy book in his library fell on his foot, Sledge has some interesting info in connection with some disadvantages of the physical nature of books.  Here's an extended excerpt:
' Medical experts agree that a backpack should come to no more than 10 to 15 percent of a child’s body weight.  Anything over that is a recipe for pain and, according to the Children’s Hospital Boston, more worrying issues like spondylolysis (stress fracture) or apophysitis (inflammation of growth cartilage, especially in the heel).
  In some cases, colleges are making it even easier for students to abandon old-fashioned books.  In a recent astonishing development, the State of Florida has offered students within its university system free downloadable textbooks, liberating them from both the staggering weight and cost of traditional college text books.  A Kindle weighs some 10 ounces, whereas “Art History” by Marilyn Stokstad is a whopping 11 pounds.
  Even though a Kindle costs around $250 compared to about $95 for Stokstad’s book, students can download multiple titles onto the electronic device, saving not only money but also precious storage space in cramped dorm rooms.  Given such realities, the trend toward bookless campuses seems inevitable.

  Heavy books have also proven to be expensive and troublesome for institutions. According to a 2007 BBC report, the Vatican library (1.5 million books on 37 miles of shelving) was literally sinking under its printed burden.  The 16th-century building’s foundations were discovered to be buckling beneath the strain, and in order to arrest the problem, the library was forced to close for the first time in its 500-year history (something not even Hitler had been able to make it do).  It is set to reopen in 2010 with, hardly a surprise, more online and digital resources.

One wonders if the straw that broke the Vatican Library’s back might have been a copy of the world’s largest and heaviest book — “Bhutan: A Visual Odyssey Across the Kingdom” — which measures over 5 feet wide, has 112 pages and weighs a punishing 133 pounds. This behemoth would tax the limits of any repository, practically requiring its own room. '

Cushing Academy - a follow-up post
This is recent news on the school library with few books, which I posted information on earlier.  They were:
  1. The initial story
  2. The Kindle Chronicles interview with headmaster Tracy

The follow-up story by Worcester Journal Online reports that the school now has 68 Kindles at an average $250 each while showing the library director, Tom Corbin, with a $489 Kindle DX.
' At Cushing Academy, Tracy has removed about 8,000 books from its once 20,000-volume library and is instead focusing library resources on subscriptions to electronic academic journals.

Tracy purchased 18 Kindles for administrators and staff to test out over the summer. After rave reviews, he ordered 50 more this fall. The school recently announced a donation of 100 more e-readers from a former student’s parent. Tracy wants 600 on campus in the coming years, one for each student and teacher. Tracy admits the approach is bold, but he said it will be the norm in a few years. '
It's not your average school...
' Cushing Academy has had steady enrollment in recent years of about 450 students and brought in $26 million in revenue in 2007. The school charges $42,850 for boarding students and $31,200 for day students.

The $100,000 investment this year has increased Cushing’s library offerings from 20,000 print volumes to a 5 million volume online library.

It’s what Tracy calls the “democratization of information.”

“I think eventually every school in the country is going to say, ‘Why do we keep buying these printed books that students are decreasingly using, that are just collecting dust?’” Tracy said.

“The students are going to electronic resources anyway; meanwhile we are warehousing books in these vast buildings at a tremendous overhead. The financials alone will drive schools to say, we can offer far more resources much more cheaply, and give students resources they will actually use.”
Other schools are quoted and they are less enthusiastic about the idea and some good sense is heard from Myra McGovern, director of public information for the National Association of Independent Schools: ' ...she said the technology will supplement, not replace printed text.

“I don’t think it’s ever going to be one or the other exclusively,” she said. '
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  1. Looks like the trend is spreading internationally:

    [*link via MobileRead Forums]

  2. Hi, Batman -
    Yes, there are many stories like this lately, even for high schools.

    Blyth however, goes a bit far re his justifications to a world that doesn't understand yet the benefits of the current readers:

    "The readers also have an audio function, and down the line will have full video streaming, he added. "So the textbooks will actually talk to you, play video for you, and be fully interactive."

    He's looking forward to the Apple or the Qualcomm, I guess. At some point, the school picking up the price doesn't work.

    Re netbooks, I retired from UC Berkeley in 2006 and for years our students in the cafeteria tended to have laptops with them. It was and is by far the best way to deal wtih notes in class and being able to retrieve information quickly. In the meantime, they use spreadsheets and text editors in their projects -- and as a long-time laptop person and now netbook one (and glad that it's lighter), I'd not be taking serious notes on virtual keyboards or even the Kindle ones, certainly.

    It'll have to be a combination of netbooks and e-readers, the latter for lightest handling when actually reading the books, but the ability to search e-readers while reading (and the ease for your eyes) is key for me as is the easy way of highlighting and being able to access the highlighting afterward for your reports.


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