The battle between ebooks and hardcopy book continues with print books winning in most instances, except at our universities. A new study shows that fewer students than ever are taking out printed books.
According to an article from The Atlantic, ebooks are preferable to students for a multitude of complex reasons. It’s is a very intriguing read, but here’s an overview of the most interesting points made in the piece.
Unlike the decline in public libraries and bookstores, writer Dan Cohen at The Atlantic notes that “there is a difference between preservation and access, and a significant difference, often unacknowledged, in the way we read books for research instead of pleasure”. In layman’s terms, there is a difference between a university library’s purpose and the purpose of a public library or bookstore.
Image via Magdalene College – University of Cambridge
Cohen, who is actually Northeastern University’s Vice Provost for Information Collaboration, has a point. A university’s library, although filled with a multitude of genres, exists to help break down information for a particular purpose, which may not be brought up again. Through his writing, he states, “he more vividly described the research process, academics often approach books like ‘sous-chefs gutting a fish’.”
With the rapidly growing number of books available online, that mode of slicing and dicing has largely become digital. Where students or faculty once pulled volumes off the shelf to scan a table of contents or index, grasp a thesis by reading an introduction, check a reference, or trace a footnote, today they consult the library’s swiftly expanding ebook collection (our library’s ebook collection has multiplied tenfold over the past decade), Google Books, or Amazon’s Look Inside.
Image via College of Social Sciences and Humanities – Northern University Education
One other key point that Cohen does make that has the biggest influence on why E-books are thriving is the cost or lack thereof.
…multiple copies of common books, those that can be consulted quickly online or are needed only once a decade, or that are now largely replaced by digital forms, can be stored off site and made available quickly on demand, which reduces costs for libraries and also allows them to more easily share books among institutions in a network
Now if we’re just talking about college alone, money is the biggest issue. Tuition has skyrocketed, loans are ridiculously complicated, and even the cost of supplies and books are too high in addition to what students are already paying. Long story short, college is expensive, and if students are trying to cut back on books, the libraries are going to have to follow in suit.
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