The Printed Word Is the eBook

By Sue L Bell

Expert Author Sue L Bell
In an earlier article I wrote about the technology myth. This is the assumption that if people are saturated with technology from birth then they will become experts in its use. This idea is akin to the scientific explanation of osmosis whereby an object absorbs elements from its environment due to high concentrations in its surroundings. Whilst this might work for objects being studied in Petri dishes it is illogical to assign the same principle to how human beings learn, practice and use technology.
As we may have learnt from history, common sense and misguided thinking drives decision making in education. Technology osmosis is the current driver of the idea that all young people are experts in technology.
This misguided and inaccurate view of how children and adolescents experience technology - a generation referred to as digital natives (a loathsome term because of its overuse and inaccuracy) - dismisses the key ingredients of a proficient technology user: interest, aptitude and practice.
Another misguided and inaccurate assumption is that youth are so enamoured of computer screens, smart phones and eBook readers that they are abandoning printed books and magazines for electronic versions on Kindle, Nook, iPads, Android or similar devices.
I teach a range of students between the ages of 14 and 18 who repeatedly stress their distaste for reading texts online. Some of them worry that the printed text will become obsolete and begrudge the assumption that they enjoy technology in all its forms. They do not want to sit at computers all day in classrooms nor do they want to read everything on a screen.
In contrast, older generations, for whom printed texts have involved carrying, losing, borrowing, loaning and inevitably abandoning them to dusty bookshelves, the eBook is a preferable alternative. Printed books - particularly trashy, cheap novels in bargain bins - are considered a waste of paper.
I want eReaders to hasten the death of print. This wish is motivated by saving trees from becoming paper pulp. I also prefer the ease of using a Kindle and its lightweight accessibility.
Books, particularly hardbacks, are expensive, take up room and are easily lost when moving house. An eBook, however, can be stored amongst thousands of other eBooks without taking up any room other than a few bytes in cyberspace.

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