Saturday, December 1, 2012

eReaders, Education, and the Future of Books

     To be honest, I'm at cross when it comes to eReaders. I would think if I wanted to buy something to read digital books on, I would get a tablet. I'm a fan of Apple, and so I'm not opposed to owning an iPad and Apple has their own version of an eReader that's available on just about all of their mobile devices. Now, after some research, I've noticed that some eReaders like the Kindle Fire behave much like other tablets with internet capabilities and such. Falcone (2012) of CNET breaks down the differences between tablets and several eReaders and how each caters to specific needs depending on who's buying. The internet capabilities of some of these eReaders make them more appealing to me, but I would still prefer an iPad. I don't know the statistics on who else thinks like me, but after some pondering, I thought that a good market for purely eReaders would be schools. For instance, Falcone (2012) discusses how Amazon's entry level Kindle is an e-ink reader that has some online functionality (perhaps to download more texts), but no other internet distractions. However, other eReaders with greater internet functionality are finding their ways into schools, which it turns out, can be beneficial as well as harmful.

Michael Kozlowski (2012) shows the potential for the educational good that can come from eReaders in the classroom. To be clear, he discusses how globalization has allowed eReaders to be used in classrooms in developing countries, but I don't see why the results wouldn't be the same in America. He notes that literacy rates and standardized test scores have risen since some experimental projects where eReaders have been distributed in Ghana. He also describes how there are expected distractions that come from internet access, but I would argue that this may be more so in such countries because of a lack of exposure to such technology. It seems that kids today are almost born with a smart device in-hand when they exit the womb. While American children are not above getting distracted than any other child, I think that American children are more accustomed to such technology and may not get distracted as easily. But that's just my opinion.
     Of course, there is a flip-side to this benefit: Lorien Crow (2012) discusses how eReaders may actually be harmful to memory functions. She describes how various research shows that when reading printed material on paper, there is more success in knowing the material rather than just remembering the material. She also discusses how the brain has an easier job at making "mental bookmarks" when reading off printed material rather than digital material. What she says it basically comes down to is how the reader is able to process the information. That there are many distractions that come with digital media, but there are benefits as well, it's simply up to the reader to take control over what they are reading.

Another issue that I came across when doing my research is what will happen to the relationship between children and books? Ingram (2012) shows that books are going anywhere, and that those who use eReaders are likely to purchase more physical books. He argues this because people are reading more because of eReaders. However, McMartin (2012) of Vancouver Sun argues that eReaders are taking away the intimacy of books. That the ease and efficiency that eReaders and tablets offer causes children today to lose those moments in time when they read a book that they simply got lost in. Therefore, with the way education is heading in terms of digital resources, perhaps this generation of children will not be more likely to but books just because they read more. It will be interesting to see how the brain develops to the use of digital print and how publishers will tailor their resources for education as the technology for digital print advances.

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