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cseresz, September 10, 2009 in Literature
I am wondering if any of the people who made this decision has ever actually tried to read a book of a computer, it is an eye-bleedingly annoying process that is more trouble than it is worth. I guess that is what e-readers are for, but if they can really only afford to purchase eighteen of the things, far from what is needed to supply even close to a significant fraction of the students, then I fail to see the point of doing this.
I had no computer throughout high school, everything I had to write was either in pen or furiously typed up in the library when I managed to get in. Similarly, paying two hundred dollars or more for an e-reader would have been out of the question. Granted, I went to a public school and not a private academy, so I am guessing my experiences concerning being unable to afford such tech are the extreme opposite of the students who attend Cushing.
It is my experiences at that age and the love of books I now have that paints this in a negative light for me, but even so I have tried to look at this without bias. The best I can go is that they are jumping the gun given the relative newness of the technology concerning ebooks and e-readers. Wouldn' it be better to wait a couple of years to see where the tech heads? By then we might see cheaper prices from standard readers or maybe an e-reader that might be able to replace text books. From my point of view, given that the school is one of the first to do this, it seems that this is a lot like all those idiotic posts where someone screams, "FIRST!!!!".
As far as the title of the link, I don't feel this is crushing news. Private schools and the students who go there might be able to afford this, but something tells me that the majority of public schools aren't likely to follow anytime soon. Something did strike me as odd when I read the article:
School officials said when they checked library records one day last spring only 48 books had been checked out, and 30 of those were childrenâ€™s books.
This strikes me as an enormously low number. Even in my high school, located in a backwater redneck town, had a good amount of people in every morning reading and checking out books before school started. Forty-eight seems a very low number, even if it only spans a few months. I am also left to wonder what they consider to be childrens books.
I like libraries as much as the next book worm, but they definitely have their draw backs and the student of the future is going to have a load of advantages over previous generations. They won't have to hunt around for ages to find a book that's been put in the wrong place. The pages won't be faded, missing, or scrawled over in someone else's handwriting. They won't have to wait until someone remembers to return the book they're after, and hiding textbooks to gain an advantage will be a thing of the past. And no more fees for bringing books back late!
A power cut would sure suck though.
This is hideously fucking stupid.
I thought the future was orange? No?
And no more fees for bringing books back late!
Once paper is gone and everything is thoroughly DRMed, the publishers will make you pay for every single page view.
If the books aren't being used, then the library is a waste of space and money. I imagine their view is that the short term cost of going digital will be worth it versus the long term cost of upkeep of the library (space, librarians, etc) and I can't say that I disagree with them.
Cushing Academy is a pretty decent school however it is particularly well known for its sports. Hockey pucks aren't taking many books out of the library.
Even were that not the case, I wasn't terribly surprised at the low number of books taken out. Schools are more and more reliant on textbooks and novels provided by the school, so there is less of a need for other books. The cost of keeping a current (meaning, continually expanding the library's stock of books) is fairly significant, particularly when it is solely for highschool students who may not even partake. Finally, high school libraries are pretty redundant when most towns have far larger, nicer libraries with librarians that are, generally in my experience, much smarter and nicer. Massachusetts (I'm sure most other states do also) has a great trading system among town libraries where you can get a book from any library in the state rather quickly and easily.
It's a High School Library. My experience is that school libraries are essentially useless. No one takes books out of them.
"No one" is an exaggeration. But they're certainly very much underutilized by student bodies. The most useful thing that tends to be done with them now is using them for mandatory research or introducing them to a sense of the kinds of categories of knowledge we've classified things into. Knowing that a biography of Elizabeth I goes under "History" and not "Celebrity Gossip" is something that some people will probably find useful.
Setting aside the question of wherever or not that would still be worth the cost of the environmental damage caused in the production and distribution of all those books, I seriously doubt they would adopt such a volatile business model, but even if they did to the point where it was more prohibitively expensive people would simply file share their way around it, or utilise whatever other black market technology exists by that point. Students are unsurprisingly price sensitive about things like that.
Setting aside the question of wherever or not that would still be worth the cost of the environmental damage caused in the production and distribution of all those books, I seriously doubt they would adopt such a volatile business model, but even if they did to the point where it was more prohibitively expensive people would simply file share their way around it, or utilise whatever other black market technology exists by that point.
Paying for every page view is an exaggeration, but there is definitely going to be a massive power grab here on part of the publishers if this catches on. A book (meaning, the kind made out of paper) is something that is extremely difficult to control once it has been sold -- there is practically nothing a publisher can do prevents it being shared, given away, resold, etc. A digital text is far easier to control: it is the natural purpose of DRM to prevent sharing, giving away and reselling it. I believe most readers already make use of this (though I suppose you can always lend someone the entire reader).
As to black market technology... it will only be viable if the hardware and firmware supports it. It works well with computers because they were never designed to be restrictive. The various copyright holders have pushed hard to change this and to some extent succeeded (e.g. Windows Vista had a whole slew of DRM measures built into the OS itself), but so far they haven't gotten far enough for most people to notice. It works considerably less well with devices like the gaming consoles that were designed for the manufacturer to exercise complete control of what the consumer does with the device from the start -- you need to modify the hardware to do anything with them. It is still possible to do so with the current generation, but I suspect that soon enough such a modification will require industrial strength equipment (or not be possible at all).
The makers of the current readers are in the same situation as the consoles: they want to restrict the usage of books as much as possible and they have complete control over the hardware and firmware. Fortunately for us, they cannot be quite as draconian as with games (not immediately, anyway) because people will just stick to paper books. However, sooner or later they're going to try to milk DRM as much as it can be milked.
Outside University, "No one" isn't really much of an exaggeration at all. Not in my experience anyway.
I had a great library at my high school. I spent countless lunch breaks there, reading books and magazines and since it was placed in the centre of the school, a lot of people did the same.
It also had a small but very good selection of fiction and since they didn't sort it after genre it really got me to read outside of the fantasy and sf fields. I found writers like Borges, Calvino, Wodehouse and Zelazny because of it.
Altherion - I wouldn't expect publishers to do anything other than milk it for all its worth - they always have done and always will do. I can read what you say about hardware and firmware and the rest and it all makes sense to me, but I just can't believe it because it isn't born out by what I've seen all my life. When I was half my age Sony, Nintendo, and the film and music industry couldn't do a damn thing to stop piracy, they still can't over a decade later, and in ten years time I'm willing to bet they won't be much closer. It's getting harder for both sides, but they're still going at it. It's more an arms race than it is a war.
I just have a very hard time thinking that readers of the future are going to be poorer* if this catches on. As you say, books (and second hand books, and pirated books) will be around for a long time, but the history of literature won't end with electronic reader: long before the last drop of ink fades from the last page of the last paperback they'll be superceded by some other gadget, and electronic readers will be the bargain-basement option.
Anyway, the point I wanted to make when I opened this thread was that there are loads of advantages that can come about from books going digital. It's not all doom and gloom.
*And this assumes we measure the cost solely as the price tag, rather than the convenience, durability, and lack of environmental damage that's gone into its production. But this is by the by.
Guys--this is really about money. No one is going to read on screen. When you were in a hurry in college and needed one more source for that paper you were writing, what did you do? Check out a book? No you got an article online and printed it out. People are going to be printing in mass quantity, and the school charges you for every page.
Think about it--kids won't check books out for free and get their info, now they'll skim books online and print a few pages here and there.
The future isn't digital until they find something our eyes can handle. I can barely read posts on this page let alone whole books.
What this will end up doing is promoting NOT reading.
Edit: Is it a high school library? I thought it was a college. When a college does it read my above post.
When you were in a hurry in college and needed one more source for that paper you were writing, what did you do? Check out a book?
Oh god I'm old.
University Libraries are still very useful, because they contain books you can't find elsewhere.
A library without books is a hideous innovation, and, as with so much else today, would be hilarious if it wasn't true. Aside from the simple fact that in the Emberverse, or even after a mere nuclear war, computers and the like won't work, reading text on a screen - or even printed out from a web page - is not the same as reading from a book.
I second that. My sister has the Sony Ebook reader, that is some nasty shit. I am NEVER going to read my books in front of a screen. That's just not right. She isn't using the thing, either.
But maybe I am wrong, maybe I am a conservative, old, asshole....but heck I am twenty and I am open-minded but I just can't imagine myself reading books in digital-version.
Uh... yeah? Oh god I'm old.
Haha. Well, I usually checked out books too, but if I found something wasn't working and I was in a hurry I'd just peruse the online database.
I suppose this could be good news for guys like me--aspiring writers. I mean publishers would be more willing to take a chance if the cost of publishing drops substantially...right? Hell, I'd rather just have some books being sold in a bookstore some day. That seems better.