The Danger of eBooks

imgresOne of the things that I love most about my job is getting to observe classes. I try to get into at least one class per day, or at least three per week. Last Friday I had the privilege of sitting in on Mrs. Mayfield’s Rhetoric class. The seniors each presented a 4-minute persuasive speech. Afterwards I asked some of them if they would mind sharing them with the world through my blog. One by one they are trickling in. Here is the first one I got. A thoughtful treatise on eBooks by Elizabeth Patton.

“Books. They began as stone or clay tablets, and then animal hide or papyrus scrolls. Later, they were carefully copied onto parchment and gathered into volumes. With the invention of the printing press, they became available to everyone. And now, as the world relies more and more on technology, electronic books are the “next step” in book evolution. But although books are now cheaper and more accessible than ever before, is this change necessarily for the better? We need to carefully examine both the pros and cons of electronic books before coming to a conclusion.

(Besides the fact that some modes of electronic reading can strain your eyes…)

Reading an e-book can cause you to lose the context of the book. Books become reduced to percentages and other intangibles and are no longer distinct entities. They all become the same, with no difference between books. Because of this, it can be harder to remember what you have read. Since there are less distinctions such as columns and page numbers, it is harder for your mind to take a mental handhold of the information. Even “turning the page” of an e-reader requires more brain activity than turning the page of a printed book, which can break your focus and also make it harder to remember what you have just read.

There are also problems with the physical aspects of an e-reader. Although it is easier to purchase some books, and you can do it anywhere, e-readers must be charged and there can be delays due to Internet connection in some cases and bugs or viruses. And though they are lighter and more portable, e-readers are also more fragile than standard books and are subject to dropping or getting wet.

One of the most significant concerns about e-books is that reading is no longer a private matter. Although it may seem that reading an e-book is more private because no one else can see what you are reading, this is not the case. Most types of e-readers track what books you purchase, and many also record how long it takes you to turn the pages and therefore how fast you read; whether you read straight through, read in small chunks, take long breaks, or read the ending first; where you are reading it (based on a GPS system in the e-reader); and anything you have underlined or highlighted. (For example, the most highlighted quotation on Kindle is from The Hunger Games: “Because sometimes things happen to people and they’re not equipped to deal with them.” This phrase has been highlighted by 17,784 readers.) Although most of this personal information is only used in a mass form (e.g., to see what kind of books people read through quickly or whether readers are stopping after a certain page), your personal data can be linked to you directly, and companies are authorized to submit it to law enforcement officials if necessary.

As I have mentioned before, several of the commonly cited benefits of electronic books are the easy transportation, the convenience of being able to buy a new book anywhere, and the lower impact on the environment. These virtues cannot be easily ignored; and convenience is often a determining factor in many issues. Ultimately, you and the other readers of the world will have to decide how e-books compare to traditional books. Discern carefully; the future of books, and therefore the world, is in your hands.”

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Posted on February 5, 2013, in Trinity Christian School Blog Entries. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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