Ban the Books in Libraries ‘Cause We Have Digital?

A recent New York Times blog discussed a school library where all 20,000 books were discarded and replaced by digital media because apparently the librarians designing the place do not see any value whatsoever in physical books. So much for the middle way.

Why do I like books? I can read one outside in the sunlight without causing a carbon footprint and get it sandy at the beach yet still have something I can pass along to my public library or a Goodwill so it can be read by someone of low income.

I can hold the book in my hand and have the pleasure of seeing how far I’ve read by tipping the spine and looking at all those signatures I’ve worked through in one sitting which is very satisfying.

I can run my hand over the beautiful jacket and pages (if it’s a well-made book–the ones printed on newsprint with hideous covers? not so much). If I’m reading electronically, every book offers the same visual/tactile experience.

If it’s nonfiction, I get a lovely linear reading experience. If it’s light reference, I can bounce around at will guided by the table of contents, the index, and my eye which catches sidebars and illustrations as I thumb through it. If I am reading electronically, I am dependent on someone else’s navigation, and I’m less likely to happen across text that catches my eye (“Search inside this book: Surprise me with a random page” doesn’t offer that option).

I can easily see the organization of the book’s information when I have a tactile object. I know I’m towards the self-help book if I pop into it at the program section, and I know I won’t understand that section completely unless I go back into the beginning of the book where the problem is defined and the author explains how we came to have this problem. When you access information nonlinearly through digital means, you don’t see these structures. You just pop in and pop out without context.

I’m not against electronic delivery of information by any means. But without access to physical books, will kids develop the valuable skills that are honed by reading a physical book?



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5 responses to “Ban the Books in Libraries ‘Cause We Have Digital?

  1. Nancy
    info for you here. i am not sure if you commented at the Times site, but I did two times, once first and then later and I took your name out for privacy reasons, but i felt what you asked was a very important question(s) based on vital concerns. later i found your blog here. we are on the same page

    danny bloom
    Tufts 1971

    i have reason to believe the Times Sunday mag is doing a major story for the summertime on my ideas of reading on paper is different MRI-scan wise from reading on screens and expect a very big and importnat cover story there and in Newsweek too. I am pushing hard for this. Stay tuned. Screens are good and useful, but we need to preserve paper reading at all costs. I am sure!


  2. Nancy, hi, i used to be a HarperCollins author, Bubbie and Zadie Come to My House , audio tape by daniel halevi bloom…….., how come you don’t email me back?
    I saw yr recent commetn on NYTimes blog, good!

    i added after yours, this:

    Danny Bloom
    Polar City One
    February 17th, 2010
    8:50 am

    This is an important discussion. I have a hunch that reading on screens is vastly inferior to reading on paper, and that reading on screens is not even reading in the old sense of the word, it is a new kind of reading mode, and I have dubbed it [screening] for now until a better word comes along, since we read on screens, I took the noun and verbed it into screening and I know I know, there are already multiple earlier meanings for screening, such screening a movie, or screening cancer patients or screening job applicants, but many words have earlier multiple meanings, we read the weather, we read faces, we read palms, we read clouds, we read maps, so don’t tell me screening is not good word here, it is. And my hunch is that future MRI scan studies will show that different parts of the brain light up when we read on paper compared to when we read on screens and that reading on paper is much better for such things as processing info, analyzing info, retaining info and emotionally taking in the info. I know 99.9 percent of you here do not believe me, but read the works of Anne Mangen and Maryanne Wolf and others in the field, they back me up completely. Okay, maybe the word we settle on for screen-reading will not be screening, since so many of you hate this word. But a new word will arise, naturally, organically. Watch. I will not be wrong about this, but it will take time to prove me right. No problem, my middlle name is patience.


  3. Me again Nancy:

    Perhaps a minor consideration but a book reader has to get off their ass to get a book: even is it’s a walk to the mailbox.


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