“I like real books…”

“…but I like real books, you know paper ones…”

This is a typical response from practitioners when I start talking about e-books.

There are three problems with this kind of response.

Firstly, e-books are not replacing paper books. Well they may in the future, in the same way cars have replaced horses. But at this time e-books can be used along with paper books. Just because e-books are available to learners doesn’t mean they are then banned from using paper books.

“Sorry, you’ve access an e-book, you no longer have the rights to read paper books!”

Secondly, which builds on the first point, is that just because we have a collection of e-books, this doesn’t mean you are forced to use them, you can still use the paper books if you want to. You do have a choice, as do the learners.

Thirdly is assumes that paper books can be accessed just as easily and quickly as the e-book collection can be (and vice versa). When I am in the library, yes it is often easier and quicker to get the paper copy of a book than start the computer, log in, download my profile, start the browser, enter the URL (or click the link), enter my credentials into the Federated Access screen, find the book, either by searching or from a “bookshelf”. Yes finding the paper copy is probably going to be faster.

However if that book has been lent out to another learner… than, accessing the book will be much quicker than asking the other learner to return the book, which could take days! Also imagine that the learner is at home or work, then travelling to the library will take time. What if the learner wants the book on Sunday afternoon at home, when the library is closed; once again the e-book will be much easier and quicker to access. This ease of access at a place and time to suit the learner is one of the key advantages of e-books.

Fourthly and finally, the initial statement is typical in that it uses the “I” word. Too many times practitioners resist using a new tool or service, or embed a technology into their teaching, because they say “I don’t like it”. Actually even worse some practitioners say that not only they don’t like it, but that there learners won’t like it… based on what evidence you have to ask? “I know my learners” they reply.

I’ll leave you with a final thought, many people did not like the fact that cars replaced horses. One of the reasons was that horses indicated position and status.

3 thoughts on ““I like real books…””

  1. Not quite true. If you’ve shelled out for the expensive ebook, not many will pay again for the paper version, so you are locked out effectively.

  2. I agree with most of what you say, but often this is a very rational reaction from people who are worried that publishers prefer the control they have with electronic distribution to the anarchy of print.

    Within an academic context e-books make a lot of sense: readers have librarians looking out for their interests, ensuring that the formats they’re available in are accessible and cross-platform, and bargaining on their behalf.

    So I’m not sure about how your final analogy holds up outside the academy, where the paperback is still extremely democratic. The paperback requires no capital outlay or access to data subscriptions, it can be bought very cheaply second-hand and is immune to any kind of digital restrictions. When I was working as a cleaner, part time on minimum wage, all kinds of books were passed around at work, while internet connections had to be shared by tedious trips to others’ houses,

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