Monday, September 17, 2012


I’m watching our students, especially our 1st year students, walk around campus from class to class- with backpacks filled with books. And I know from looking at course outlines that textbooks in paper format continue to dominate higher education classes as they did when I went to college. There is even a feeling, still prevalent, that regardless of all the technological advances, textbooks, as we have always known them, will continue their dominance for at least another decade. I don’t think that will happen.

Up to a few years ago, as part of preparing for any vacation, I would identify the books I wanted to read (usually escapist fiction), purchase them (in paperback if at all possible) and place them in my carry on. My Kindle serves that purpose now and I have no regrets having made the change. Any office paperwork I now bring along on vacation is via Dropbox and the convenience without the weight is a real plus.

My kids who are entering middle school and high school are not being issued textbooks. Instead they will be issued educational materials loaded on iPads, and the costs are comparable to using standard paper textbooks (even factoring the cost of the iPad). Over time, education on the middle school through high school levels will become more and reliant on iPads and eBooks. Textbooks will be relegated to an occasional use basis for specialized circumstances.

We already see the transformation of libraries that has and still is taking place. Where 15 years ago, we had a main library building as well as a large satellite library building, we now are able to build in significantly more student individual and group study space in our main library building and we no longer have a satellite building. And our reference librarians are spending less time at the reference desk and instead spending more time teaching students to be sophisticated users of information technology.

Now I know firsthand there are still some disadvantages with the iPad/eBook technology. Highlighting and making notes in the margin are still not as convenient as with a paper version textbook. I often highlighted simply because it allowed me, in reviewing the material, to focus on what was most important or to highlight material which I needed to spend more time studying. EBooks on the other hand have the benefit of including more dynamic illustrations and/or video clips that can illustrate and enhance the material being studied. The ship has sailed on the issue of iPads, tablet computers and eBooks. We need to adjust and get on board so as to maximize the benefits from this imminent change.

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