We’re having that argument again, are we?
I suppose it is perennial. When we are enamored of a thing, we champion it. If it works for me, it makes me passionate – I want to evangelize. I have learned (is it learning to have something knocked into you by hard experience? Yes? Then I have learned) to temper my passions and try to see other users’ points of views and modify my recommendations to suit their style, history, preference, and myriad other variables.
Sometimes I even see both sides of a debate because different technologies work better for me in different scenarios (imagine!). I recently bought a Kindle after a great deal of deliberation and debate. The small form factor and vast memory are really, really useful for traveling light, for instance. A huge library of classics is available from Amazon for free (I am currently revisiting the first Louisa May Alcott novel I ever read, Eight Cousins, with a mixture of charm, nostalgia, and nausea). That being said, I don’t intend to repurchase all of my old favorites. Having all six of Jane Austen’s novels packaged in one slim vessel is fantastic, but only because I didn’t have to pay a dime for them to replace the leatherbound set that was a gift from a lifelong friend. In the case of non-classics that are not available for free or at a stupendous discount, some old favorites may be reserved on paper to re-read in the bath. I don’t intend to replace a lot of my craft reference volumes for the Kindle (or even to start purchasing such works in electronic format). Some things work better on paper. Some already exist and don’t need to be duplicated. Some things (doorstop novels, for instance) make me almost tearfully thankful that I don’t have to use two hands to heft them or use pillows or knees to prop them up.
So a Facebook thread of a friend who also recently purchased a Kindle that spawned several “paper books or death!” comments rather wearied me, and reminded me of a comment I put on a friend’s blog when I was still in library school. An edited version of that comment is reproduced below:
At 40, I am someone who often falls in between the 20-somethings right out of college and the empty-nesters going back to school and career after a long absence. I have to say I’m pretty sick of being the one who steps into the “OMG! Technology is the answer!” and “Oh woe – technology will swamp our precious books!*” arguments by saying, “Ummm. Wait a minute. Just because Cheshire Academy grabbed headlines by replacing their paper collection with a clutch of Kindles doesn’t mean that is necessarily the way things are going to go for every institution. People still know how to write with a pen, even though there are typewriters and computers. Different formats are going to work for different people and institutions and for different reasons.
It’s not very useful to argue about the superiority of print over digital (or vice versa) without looking at specifics such as audience and budget. Rather than having this [utterly pointless] argument over format, why don’t we all agree that the goal is to get useful information into the hands of our patron communities in the way that works best given the resources and restrictions at the institution in question?”
*I swear, if I have to listen to one more person talk about how they love the smell of a book one more time, I will scream. Not because I don’t love the smell of books myself, but because it’s NOT A USEFUL ARGUMENT** when you’re talking about dissemination of information.
**sorry, my lawyer is showing.
Can we just get on with reading and learning and not worry overmuch about whether the medium is paper, screen, or stone tablet?