April 18, 2010

Jacquie Henry Looks to the Future

In this post on ebooks for students, I was responding to the great Jacquie Henry's post on ebooks for students. Here is her thoughtful response.

When I wrote my ebook post - I was thinking mostly in terms of non-fiction books, not text books. I have a library full of great non-fiction that our kids ignore for the most part. If our non-fiction books were in ebook format, and as easy to use as a web site - they might have a chance with the net generation. If they were in ebook format and searchable via the computer, I wouldn't have a student coming the the desk saying - "you don't have any books on "Albrecht Durer". We actually DO have MANY books with lengthy chapters on Albrecht, which is what this student really needed. What if the catalog could have led that student to the books and allowed him to look at the various chapters and then decide which one of our many books about Renaissance artists he wanted to take out? That would be great.

As for novels...I have a lot of avid readers and they want no part of ebooks. However, I also have several friends with Kindles who love it, and now tend to avoid print books. To each his own. I've tried both and still prefer a real book. That said, I need to really know where my kids are if I am going to provide them with resources they will USE.

As for textbooks - they are just plain boring. Not sure if ebooks can help with that. The content is the same - whether read in ebook or print form. Still - maybe some clickable pictures that would bring up a video, along with a "read to" feature might help the net gen or struggling readers trudge through the material with a little less pain.

She's been adding articles like the ones mentioned to a list she calls The Future of Reading. Do check it out.

Her comments on the catalog go along with this post, Catalog Companies - Can You Hear Me Now? which describes a kind of Net Generation library catalog with features she'd like to see. They definitely need to step up the searching in this Google Era, but I don't know about printing chapters. Seeing excerpts a la Google Books would be a great feature though.

What do you think?


C.B. James said...

Most textbooks are written by committee, so I don't see much hope for them. The main trouble is that we're forced to buy them. We get money from the state dedicated to materials that we have to spend on state approved materials. If I suggested that it would be better to buy new laptops instead and use the Wikipedia instead of the textbook on the Middle Ages there's no way I can do that.

Too many people want to control what I say about the Middle Ages, and too many people want to make money off of what materials I use to say it.

Non-fiction books also sit largely unread on my shelves. I have to say that if I was the author of non-fiction, I'd be worried about the future.

Jim Randolph said...


I apologize for the belated response, but great points all around. I especially like your point about the "controlling the message" aspect. Textbooks are so boring because they're so watered down. I think netbooks with wikipedia would be brilliant. Yes, there's terrible things online--just as in life. But why should school be a reality-free zone?