Are Ebooks really the appropriate tool for the academic environment? When do they not work?

A good analysis of how print material is used by those who are seriously concerned about understanding and critiquing research at post-secondary institutions questions the limitations of ebooks and the way in which they can be used can be found on the Academic Librarian site, “Long Live the Codex”.

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1 Response to Are Ebooks really the appropriate tool for the academic environment? When do they not work?

  1. Rochelle Mazar says:

    Paper, like any other form of technology, has things it does better than anything else. I’m not really convinced books is what paper does best though, frankly. But we’re in a time of extreme flux when it comes to ebooks and the technology that houses them. But tell the person with glaucoma that books, whose font size cannot be shifted, is a better medium for transmitting extensive analysis. Tell a someone who has low vision or who is blind that they’ll have to wait for a braille version, or have to get someone to read a book to them aloud in order to stay engaged with the latest research. The pro-book lobby has a rarely acknowledged ableist streak.

    The interfaces we have for ebooks aren’t yet perfect for academia, it seems. Ereaders have been designed for the casual reading market, not for academic use. As we all know, academic reading and pleasure reading are two rather different activities. As librarians are more in touch with what those interfaces should look like, why aren’t we out there consulting on the construction of better ones? Why don’t we have an academic ebook app out there that lets scholars do what they need to do? Are we waiting for someone else to build it? Who would that someone else be?

    I have to say, that blog post you linked to made me laugh, though. It starts out condemning the rhetorical around digital book culture that suggests that students don’t want to read an entire monograph, but only want to focus on small bits of it at a time. I’ve heard protestations about that a lot, and I think the rhetoricians are overstating the truth of it and the reactors are overreacting to it, but nevertheless. There is a wistfulness to the argument in the post about the good old days when people really focused on a whole monograph as it was meant to be. But then the post ends by proclaiming that paper books are awesome because they let people read bits and pieces of various works in quick succession. If that’s the case, maybe we should ban paper books. Focus on that monograph, damn you! That argument needs to be digested as a whole, not in tiny pieces! Hahaha!

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