It has been a common knowledge that books have bewildered the world of their contents, appeals and processes from authorship to readership. At the advent of computer and internet streamlining every household in highly developed countries, agreeing with the note of Sven Birkerts that the old assumptions of writing and reading are under
siege, affecting the grass-root level consumers up to the print or online stalwart producers is a concern to look into with explicit, subtle and uncertain expectations.
Indeed, books have nourished the halls and citadels of learning institutions from time immemorial. Since books are primarily crafted for reading, reading books and producing them have continually evolved. Initially, traditional typography reading has flourished starting with Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press. In addition, with myriad of innovation brought by technological development in advanced and poor countries alike, perusing religious to science books and to anything-under-the-sun tomes and other prints created small shelves to huge libraries of information in the world. Furthermore, books of this time have been with people. Books of different sizes, contents, and print forms have been muscled, dirtied, marked, and savored by the fingers, pens, hands, and eyes of students, teachers, and those who are engrossed by profession and leisure. Not to mention, books have also eaten all sort of bookmarks and varied memorabilia from flower of suitors, feathers, leaves, postcards and the likes from generation to generation. Although using them could mean withering them out, this would immensely remind the readers the proof of their acts etched by the wrinkles they have worn by turning their pages from cover to cover. Could this conventional ways embedded in people (writer, publisher, and reader) be changed by time and more advancement that is highly sophisticated?
The new reading model has come to answer. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos strongly considers that one of humankind’s most divine creations, the book, can be improved thus opening a new reading era. With technology at reach as initiated by telecom firms, digitalizations of analog books or tomes have already begun. Digitalization of books brought the e-book specifically what Bezos endorses, the Kindle. Kindle and its kin like the Sony Reader, Guitar Hero, Blackberry and the likes epitomize into action the new reading model.
What does the latest gadgetry has to offer compare to the traditional model, typical tomes or book? Bezos’ enumeration as Steven Levy reported cites some of its advantages, which are as follows:
• Projects an aura of bookishness (Although it’s battery power; it does not run hot compared to other electronic device.);
• Uses E Ink (breakthrough technology that copies the clarity of a printed book);
• Displays educational images to soothe the anxieties of avid print-culture;
• Allows versatility, allowing the user to change the font size for the elders’ consumption;
• Stores shelves or bulwark collection of virtual library stack in a high capacity;
• Offers searchability allowing easy access to book or data desired;
• Connects to internet via system called “Whispernet” creating net service;
• Downloads, browses, and personalizes books on-line independent of a computer;
• Subscribes to virtual publication linked to kindle with least cost;
• Jots down or make notes using a highlighted pen; and,
• Ventures out as a web itself capable of interacting web search engines, blogs, and other web pages and can offer file or document sharing.
With this features, Amazon calls it an iPod of reading. However, not all writers and publishers are happy about this latest technology considering that it is quite pricey at $399 (as of November 2007). In comparison to the conventional or paper books, Ann Proulx, fictional writer, commented that nobody is going to sit down and read a novel on a twitchy little screen.
Likewise, in Terje Hillesund’s paper entitled Reading Book in the Digital Age subsequent to Amazon, Google and the Long Tail, Robert Darnton said that written and printed books have an “extraordinary staying power” over its digital counterpart.
“Ever since the invention of the codex in the third or fourth century AD, it has proven to be a marvelous machine — great for packaging information, convenient to thumb through, comfortable to curl up with, superb for storage, and remarkably resistant to damage. It does not need to be upgraded or downloaded, accessed or booted, plugged into circuits or extracted from webs. Its design makes it a delight to the eye. Its shape makes it a pleasure to hold in the hand. And its handiness has made it the basic tool of learning for thousands of years …”
Amidst strong calls to protection against the perceived death of books (traditional) over e-books (new reading), Steven Levy on his article (Future of Reading) is still optimistic of the possibilities the new bred of book may offer by reiterating the points (noted by experts) and where it may lead to, such as:
• Duplication the features of the physical book;
• Content or words appreciation not merely the physical aspect of books;
• Interaction of readers and writers creating a community or e-book club;
• Deduction of cost or price of downloadable books compared to books printed but not compromising author’s loyalty share;
• Amplification of readership compared to less people reading the tomes;
• Conglomeration of data leading to open source of world’s information providing reliable resources;
• Protection of intellectual and property rights against illegal acts on prints so as on online penetration;
• Corrections and updates of contents incase unavoidable errors;
• Participation of readers in writing of the authors for improvement and feedbacks;
• Serialization of notable works;
• Digitalization of entire libraries; and,
• Creation of new trends in reading, writing, publishing, and evaluating processes and industry of e-book.
People of all generations may conform to the common belief that change is inevitable. At the end of the day, people would agree that the energy-wasting and resource-draining process of making paper just to produce conventional books would not be realistic with in the 50 years as Bill Hill noted. By then e-books may find its rightful place over its predecessors (other digital or print) or it may even have its new brand, but for sure it is not going to be Kindle’s future version alone.
Although baffled by these concerns and challenges, if e-book becomes successful in the market reaching the north and south of the globe, it will surely revolutionized the way people think of reading leading to new literacy. Consequently, new literacy can mean new approach in education. What will education frontrunners, teachers be confronting?
Ilana Snyder provides closer outlook by expressing his views on Packaging literacy, New Technologies and Enhanced Learning.
If schools are to prepare students for a rapidly changing world, in which technology-mediated literacy practices are integral, then more is needed than reductive notions of literacy and market-driven `technologisation’ of the curriculum, accompanied by evidence-free promises of better learning. The effort considers the possibilities for critical digital literacy education.
Different faces of literacy will be emerging. As this thing surfaces, teachers should be the first to be mediated or trained. A critical digital literate teacher is probably a teacher who could not only maximize the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) media to provide learning environment but could also streamline new trends at the classroom and off-classroom (real life) level. To name a few challenges, which teachers are up against, is to look into the product, process, and output framework leading to some issues that could be difficult to respond with by the teachers, school, and the state, such as:
• Provision of this new technological devise or equipment for literacy
• Sustainability and management of resources in e-learning or digital education
• Training for heads, teachers, and students
• Teachers and students’ access to the media
• Teachers’ adaptation to technological change
• Monitoring and evaluation of the new program
• Improvement and Reporting
Above all these, the foremost concern in this new literacy brought by the new technology is the teachers’ attitude with regard to it. Teachers’ culture varies in some places. How much more for schools, which have not been reached yet by computers?
References and Readings:
“The Future of Reading.” Steven Levy. From the NEWSWEEK magazine issue dated Nov 26, 2007. Available at http://www.newsweek.com/id/70983/output/print
“Reading Books in the Digital Age subsequent to Amazon Google and long tail.” Terje Hillesund. (2007) Available at http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue12_9/hillesund/index.html#author
“Packaging literacy, new technologies and ‘enhanced’ learning.” Ilana Snyder. At