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Pa-per View – Does the Book always Trump the Pixel?

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

On another forum I belong to, there is a discussion going on about books, and the “beauty” of books. I am not trying to insult anyone, or anyone’s beliefs here, but I just do not “get” the whole attraction of books, people who love the “feel and smell” of books. For me, the beauty is what is inside the book, it always has been. The beauty comes from the words, the data, the pictures, the imagery, the enlightenment and the illustrations – not from holding the spine, and turning pages. This is all pretty much what I love about learning as well, both classroom and online. I do agree that books can be beautiful objects, but personally, I am just as at home reading a Kindle, or an electronic article as a book.

My daughter berates me for spoiling books, for breaking the spines, for jotting notes in them, for folding the pages back to mark where I have reached, or for marking an interesting theory or observation, but for me, the book is the tool – not the end product. To me, that is like saying I should only tap the nail softly to avoid damaging the hammer.

Some people who hold this “book always trumps electronic” argument seem, to me, to do so for pure reasons of comfort and familiarity.

I can imagine people in the late 1470s saying, (possibly with a “Monty Python voice…)

Well…that Caxton fellow…it’s only a passing phase……books will never replace a good old-fashioned scroll. You can’t even roll a book up can you!   Any where’s the seal? Any good publication HAS to have a seal. It’s not even written by hand, it’s not REAL learning is it…..”.

Actually, they would not have said “flash in the pan”, because that comes from early camera terminology, a few hundred years later.

Anyway…..

It seems that we Instructional Designers often try to suit everyone. We feel that we need a “…copy of the slides as Attachments”, almost to suit a “Just in Case” scenario; so that learners can “…print off a copy to have as reference”. Are we so unsure of our teaching that we need to provide backup? What % of “printable Attachments” are ever printed and actually read?

Surely the best reference is to go back to the course? Perhaps the issue here is hard-to-use, and hard-to-access LMS and Knowledge Management systems.

We often say that we provide printed coursework from our online courses “to suit different learning styles”. If that is the case, are we going to say – perhaps in 10 years time – that reading a book is different from reading a Kindle. Is the ACTUAL difference the turning of pages? Maybe the act of turning a page actually provides a few milliseconds to reflect, to pause, to consciously “move on”.

It seems to me that many of the “paper is best” positions are based around the familiarity I mentioned earlier. Who knows what is coming next? I remember a prediction in the early 1980’s, when Professor Heinz Wolf said we would all save so much time cooking with microwaves that we would see a resurgence in “real” cooking – using the time saved to make cookery a leisure activity. I am not sure he was exactly correct in his thinking, but the outcome was correct. Perhaps books will have a popularity surge when we all get bored of Kindles etc. however, until then we need to ensure we think about NetGen learners, and all others, and make sure that we consider how, and why we provide information, and in what format.

New ways of delivering information always take some getting used to – for both the “designers” and the “learners”. This sums it up beautifully – http://youtu.be/pQHX-SjgQvQ

Till next time

Bruce

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