Tagged: physical books vs. ebooks

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One limitation of e-books

favicon In just the past two weeks, generous people from across the country have donated $1,130 to the Kindle Classroom Project, which is wonderful timing, because students in the San Francisco Bay Area are requesting books left and right, and they’re absolutely giddy that I’m able to honor their requests nearly immediately.

But for the first time, I’ve encountered a problem: Not every title comes in e-book format.

Hip Hop HIgh SchoolFirst came Hip Hop High School, by Alan Sitomer. This has been a favorite among ninth graders for a long time, so I’ve known that it’s available only in paper. Nonetheless, it’s a sad moment when a student wants to read it on his or her Kindle and can’t. How is that possible? they ask.

Turns out that some authors (or publishers), for various reasons, do not allow their books to be converted to e-book format. Perhaps this is to protect profits, or maybe it’s just to retain the romantic notion of reading. (I’m pretty sure it’s the former — and authors, in many instances, probably have a good argument.) For young people, however, who have grown up in a hybrid world of physical books and e-books, all of this makes no sense.

True BelieverAnd then it happened again this morning, when a ninth grader requested True Believer, by Virginia Euwer Wolff. Again, no e-book format. It’s unfortunate, but I suppose the KCP has met a challenge!

As a result, I started thinking of if there is a solution. First I’ll check in with the teacher to see if there is a physical copy available. If not, then maybe the Iserotope / Kindle Classroom Project community can come to the rescue!

That’s why I’ve added both physical books to the Amazon Wishlist in case you’d like to help out!

Update 9/21: Good news! These two books have been donated, thanks to Brian (Leesburg, VA). Thank you!

Why not just buy the student the physical book using donated funds? you may ask. The main reason is that I want to make sure that donors know where their money is going. Right now, all monetary gifts go directly to purchase e-books to honor student requests and to build the KCP Library.

Another reason is that although I love physical books — and have a dream that every single e-book in the KCP Library has a physical counterpart — the primary purpose of the Kindle Classroom Project is to aggressively increase access to books using Kindles and e-books for urban students of color in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Please let me know what you think in the comments! favicon

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Recommended Reading: “In a Mother’s Library, Bound in Spirit and in Print”

favicon Nick Bilton last week wrote an ode to physical books in “In a Mother’s Library, Bound in Spirit and in Print.” It strikes all the key notes: his mother’s passing, the inheritance of a 3,000-book library, her notes in the books’ margins, memories of childhood, and plenty of emotion.

In the piece, Mr. Bilton does not take sides on the perennial e-books vs. physical books debates. Each is good for its purpose. But if the purpose is to remember a loved one, then we know which format is better.

“In late March, a few days after my mother died from cancer, I sat in a cold living room in the north of England with my two sisters as a lawyer read my mother’s last will and testament. We were told that her modest estate would be divided evenly among her three children, with one exception.”

It always gets me thinking: Will people say the same thing about photographs? Many funerals now include hand-constructed tributes that include physical prints. What about a slideshow projected on a screen? Less emotional and impactful?

As for physical books, yes, there will always be that tactile experience, the feeling of the paper, the quality that an object takes on in an environment. It’s maybe true that a physical book offers a better reminder of having read a book.

But on the other hand, I don’t think I’ll forget reading Last Chance in Texas or Just Mercy anytime soon. Those books will stay with me even if their contents live inside my Kindle rather than on my bookshelf. favicon

Source: http://j.mp/1d7CUCM (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon

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2 more reasons that e-books are better than physical books for classroom libraries

favicon I continue to fight with myself about whether I should advocate more strongly for e-books (over physical books) in classroom libraries. I want to, but my official position is still this: Both are good.

I know that sounds wishy-washy, so let me explain. If there’s a lot of money, then it’s best to get a lot of physical books and a lot of e-books and let the students choose which format they prefer.

But here’s the reality: There is just not enough money. In most public urban schools, there’s barely any. Teachers who want to build classroom libraries have to spend tons of time looking for cheap books, begging their friends for donations, and hoping that they win Penny Kittle’s Book Love grant.

(I hope I win Penny Kittle’s Book Love grant.)

So that’s why I believe strongly in e-books and Kindles.

This picture — which I took yesterday at Envision Academy’s student-run library in Oakland, offers two more reasons I prefer e-books. Take a look:

Sharon Draper Books

Do you see what I see?

#1: Look at all that wear and tear!
(The books are less than two years old.) It’s great that students have loved reading them — Sharon Draper writes extremely popular books for young people — but these physical books need replacing soon. (E-books don’t need to be replaced.)

#2: These books didn’t use to be there.
Last year, you couldn’t find a copy of a Sharon Draper book on the library’s bookshelves. Students were always reading Ms. Draper (see #1 above). But now, a year later, those six copies of Forged By Fire are just sitting there, not being read. With physical books, multiple copies have to be bought (expensive) when a title is popular. But when the trend ends, you wish you had spent some of your money on this year’s popular titles. (E-books can be read by six students at a time, all for the price of one.)

So it’s pretty clear to me that it’s best practice to encourage teachers and students to make the move toward Kindles.

But the problem is that there are a lot of people — including me — who like the idea of physical books. I love my Kindle, but it’s a bit harder to curl up with one.

Do students feel the same way? I haven’t done a formal study, but a recent lunch meeting with students in Hayward suggests no.

I asked them, “Do you prefer reading physical books?” Only one student said yes. Most were neutral or preferred reading on their Kindle.

Then I asked them, “There are a lot of people who think that a book is better when you’re reading the physical version. What do you think of that?”

Two students agreed with that notion and said that flipping pages makes the experience more tactile. But again, the vast majority said that the format doesn’t matter — it’s the story that counts.

I’m going to continue talking with students. Even though I believe strongly in the Kindle Classroom Project, it’s important to uncover what teachers and students want.

One thing is clear: What’s currently happening in public urban schools — a scarcity of books, resources, and reading — cannot continue. There needs to major shift in reading culture!

Please let me know your thoughts on this one! favicon

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Recommended Reading: “Is there any reason to own paper books beside showing off? Not really.”

favicon I like this piece by Andrew Couts, who argues that the only point to maintaining a library of physical books is to demonstrate your academic sophistication and snobbery.

Of course, this isn’t entirely true. Especially in schools, it’s important that students see real, physical books in classrooms. Otherwise, reading becomes even more private, where the reading “have-nots” are marginalized.

But once students are reading, there’s no need to keep buying the same physical books, over and over, and waiting for them to get lost or torn or overly used or stuck on shelves.

kindle bookshelf

“My book collection, I realized this weekend, is one of the few things in my home that makes me seem smart. Visitors step into my living room to see shelves and shelves of tomes – Hemingway, McCarthy, Kafka, Tolstoy, Franzen, Sedaris, Bukowski, Fitzgerald – each creased spine revealing more about my interests and intellect. At least, that’s what my subconscious likes to believe. Just as vacation photographs show off where we’ve been, books show where our minds have traveled. They have, in other words, become little more than an elaborate way to brag.

Source: http://j.mp/120VBSH (via Pocket). You can also find this article at Iserotope Extras, a curated list of my favorite articles about teaching, reading, and technology. favicon