Growing Up Without Ebooks
To celebrate School Library month, MyVoucherCodes invited me to do a post on how ebooks have changed the world. More specifically, how ebooks might impact children’s literacy. I’ve talked about ebooks before, and in general I am an advocate of digital tools. And my thoughts on this particular topic can easily be summarized.
Let us be real here. Both ebooks and physical books have a future.
For the longest time, newspapers heralded the demise of paperbacks, as with these new shiny things called ereaders, one could hold hundreds of books in one hand. Luddites were quick to retaliate, claiming that paperbacks were obviously vastly superior (and yes, you do retain more from reading a paper book – but the difference isn’t as much as you’d think). More recently, the ebook boom seems to be tapering off to an extent, Luddites exclaim that ebooks might die an obscure death.
From where I’m standing, I think we can have both. There is room in the world for both ebooks and physical books to co-exist. Some people prefer the one over the other. Both mediums have their pros and cons, and as of yet, there seems to be no clear winner. Maybe when ebooks can actually be borrowed or re-sold, the ereaders would come out on top. But as things stand right now, we’re going to continue to by both.
When I grew up, there obviously weren’t any ereaders yet. I was a library kid, through and through. Going to the library was one of my favourite things. When I got home, I would drop the large pile of books on the couch, and start reading immediately. Before I could read, my parents would read to me before bed.
Kids these days have more options than I did. Many parents let their kids play games on a tablet, which can also be a nice tool to read books on. However, with the shiny distractions and instant gratification, I don’t think tablets will really persuade kids to read. I notice this in myself too – when I’m on my tablet, even though I have several reading apps, I tend to spend more time on other things, including games and social media.
Dedicated ereaders on the other hand, though people seem to buy them less lately, would be a great addition for any bookworm-in-the-making. I know my parents would have loved it if I had a Kindle when I was ten. I was the kid that brought six fantasy tomes on every holiday trip we made (and guess who had to carry them – not me!). Ereaders are great. They’re light, they have some extremely useful tools such as a built-in dictionary, they can hold many books, and there are no distractions when reading.
The only case in which I think the physical book definitely wins out on an ereader is concerning picture books. Artwork needs more space than the size of a screen. A tablet just doesn’t do picture books justice, and ereaders often can’t display them at all.
For all the other, non-picture-heavy novels, I think kids these days have it good. They have all these possibilities, from libraries to book stores to digital libraries and ereaders. Though research on whether reading literature actually has any benefits is rather flimsy, it cannot be denied that reading is still just as cool as when we first started to put pen to paper.