Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Thinking about the 21st Century Book

As with the evolution of newspapers, the book as a form is in change. Digital books are here. With the emergence of the Ipad, Zoom, Kindle and many others, these devices are able to platform E-Books. According to Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak, "Millions of people now own Kindles. And Kindle owners read, a lot. When we have both editions [hardcopy and digital], we sell 6 Kindle books for every 10 physical books. This is year-to-date and includes only paid books - free Kindle books would make the number even higher. It's been an exciting 27 months." That was in January of last year. By July of last year, Amazon announced Kindle book sells surpassed their hardcover book sales. Naysayers dismissed this, and held on to the paperback with bulwark resolve. However, the tides continued to encroach, and Amazon duly reported in February that E-Book sales exceeded paperback sells.
Overall, my 9th grade advanced students are strong readers. Some by choice; some by habit, but pretty strong in general. Before I shared these statistics with them, I had them journal about their own experiences with books. First I had them create a list of adjectives (at least 10) describing an actual physical book and/or the experience of reading a book. Then I had them recall and write descriptively about a positive reading experience. I had them focus on who was present, where it took place, how they felt. Their responses were traditional and expected. Lists included parents, siblings, soft lights, hard books, bright pictures, beds, comfort. Titles were shared: A Hungry Caterpillar, Good Night Moon, Harry Potter, Jane Eyre. (She's an AVID reader!) However, every one of their lists excluded their experiences having anything to do with an E-book. Even though a few have books on digital devices.
I then showed them this video "A Next-Generation Digital Book" from TED Talks featuring Mike Matas from Push Pop Press

It was interesting to hear the students reaction towards this type of book. They immediately saw a connection between this and their textbooks.
"We wouldn't need book bags!" Jose shouted.
"Imagine biographies," I said.
"Then why would we need the History or Biography channels?" McKenna posed.
Kyle thought he would read more. That it looked like a video game, and "it looked a lot cooler than a raggy old book."
But as much as I played devil's advocate, they wouldn't or couldn't see the application in their fiction. They held their ground. Alyssa succinctly put it like this, "They would still our imagination." The class mostly agreed. Nevertheless, Kyle was ready to turn in every hard covered, paper backed, book he owned.
This conversation lead us into our discussion about technology development in Rand's Anthem. Here the World Council spent 100 years weighing and implementing the candle. What are their fears? What will they lose? What will they gain?
We brought the conversation back around to reading, books, technology, and change. I posed the same questions: What are your fears? What will we lose? What will we gain? Their responses were responsible, grand, even dismissive, for their entire technological life experience has been about change. This was just another development that they could quickly compartmentalize the use of: nonfiction - great; fiction - no way. As I read their exit slips, it seemed to me they were protecting those experiences they wrote about at the beginning of class. And for those avid readers, a more cautionary tone was evident - "No one is taking my book from me." - Sean

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