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09:19 am: No Homer On Your I-Pad, Please

Intersting article about St. John’s College’s struggle to keep actually books in the classroom.

Article here.

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Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon. (link)

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From:juliet_winters
Date:September 14th, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC)

If...

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they could get the same editions electronically, down to the pagination, there's really no reason why they shouldn't be an option. But that would not help the students who are trying to get older editons on the cheap. Nor should it. The edition matters.

I like books, especially grungy paperback copies of classics. I pick them up for free or next to it on the last day of library book sales. I love owning books.
But I realize that college students today are as comfortable with iPads and eReaders as we are with more traditional media.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 14th, 2010 02:03 pm (UTC)

Re: If...

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I think that part of the problem is that it hard to tell if students are paying attention with such devices in their hands.

On one hand, I can see why they would not want I-Pads in class. On the other hand, college books are expensive. The purchase of an I-Pad or Kindle and the necessary e versions would probably be a lot cheaper than buying the actual books, unless you found a really good used store. (Of which there used to be a lot in Annapolise, but today they are all gone.)

I suspect that this is a temporary decision and that in a few years they will change their mind--though it would be in keeping with other things at the school if they stuck to books way after everyone else abandoned them.

As to books themselves, I have suspected for some time that we are moving toward a time when reading material will begin to differenciate into two types...regular which is read just as easily on a device, and fancy...with giant pictures or stuff you can do physically like the "ology" books, which will remain something you need to buy physically. (A little like how movies are currently 3-D to pull you to the theatre.)

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From:headnoises
Date:September 14th, 2010 02:45 pm (UTC)
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Reads to me like they're mostly worried about the quality of the translations-- with a "not paying attention" thrown in as an afterthought.

Since their solution is to ban the pads, rather than direct folks at suitable translations, I'm going to guess they're worried about their on-site book sales.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 14th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
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Possibly...though when I was there most of us bought our books elsewhere, used.

I wonder if they think that policing the I-Pad's for translation version would be a headache they just don't want.
From:xander25
Date:September 14th, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
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But...if everything goes to iPad, how am I going to write in my books? Yes...I write in my books...I underline things...write stuff in the margins...fold pages.... At least books that I'm studying from anyways. I also like a physical book that I can hold in my hands.

That being said...all of the books on the St. John's list you can find on Project Gutenberg and elsewhere for free. So, it would be much cheaper. I tried that road, and believe it or not, it IS harder to concentrate. No, I found the best route for serious study, is a hard copy book in your hands.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 14th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
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John and I just had a huge argument about writing in books. (I was in favor...for your own book. He was against.)

It will be interesting to see how this all progresses. After all, a student could always read the work on their I-Pad and take a book to class from the library. ;-)
From:xander25
Date:September 14th, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
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My apologies over striking up a huge argument. Though, I would be curious to hear the argument against. "Books as sacred cows" arguments don't hold much sway with me. Books are for conveying information, anything that aids in that would seem to aid in that purpose. I might be able to see it, if writing in books as an aid might be seen as a crutch of some sort, or perhaps by writing in a work you are attempting to take away from what an author has written...ie "you're not being humble enough". Who knows.

"I was in favor...for your own book."

A couple weeks ago, someone was writing in a library book. As a librarian's son...it was like running fingernails across a chalkboard.
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From:boc_imaginos
Date:September 15th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
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Most e-book readers provide tools for annotating your books. Certainly the Kindle and iPad do. So that's a non-issue. Well, somewhat. There's still the interface issue. In general you can do all of those *faster* with a paper book. On the other hand, if I make a note on my e-book, I can also share that note with my friends/classmates.

Personally, I do paper and e-ink. There are advantages to both. Also, there are a lot of books that still aren't available in digital format. As a rule of thumb, I prefer digital books for reading, and paper books for referencing. Switching back and forth between ten passages in three books is *possible* with an e-reader, but not easy and not fast.
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From:hannahsarah
Date:September 14th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)
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Real, honest to goodness books will never be replaced in my heart. Embossed leather or cloth covers, the dusty smell of gently yellowing paper and the acid tang of ink. I get positively giddy in antique book shops.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 14th, 2010 05:45 pm (UTC)
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I'm imaging that quality books, such as with leather covers, will become bigger in years to come...because then it's worth buying the hard copy. ;-)
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From:bojojoti
Date:September 15th, 2010 12:21 am (UTC)
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I can understand the college's objection to electronic versions of books if they aren't the correct copy. There is a world of difference in translations.

I don't have any of the electronic readers yet and don't know if I will. I love my paper books. I wouldn't be adverse to having an electronic reader for traveling. For light travelers, paper books can take up valuable space. My kids plan on getting an electronic reader for Christmas. I'll be interested in trying it out.
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From:marycatelli
Date:September 15th, 2010 12:33 am (UTC)

Eep

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In the comments
Faculty who fear tech as a "distraction" should probably work on not being so boring.

People who want to be entertained rather than educated should go to entertainment facilities, not educational ones.
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From:arhyalon
Date:September 15th, 2010 11:56 am (UTC)

Re: Eep

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I definitely agree, but in addition:

>Faculty who fear tech as a "distraction" should probably work on not being so boring.

Boy, did this make me laugh. Whoever wrote it knows nothing of St. John's. These books are not being used in a lecture format wherethe faculty speaks. They are being used in a discussion format, where the faculty sits by and moderates and the students do the talking. So, if the kids are bored, it's really their own fault.

That being said, I often did other things in semenar. But I don't personally find writing on a paper as distracting as the computer, because if I'm writing something it's my head/imagination competing with the class. If I have a reader, I could be reading the latest Dresden novel, and I assure you, I would not be paying attention to the class at all!

One thing that really happened to me was rather funny. I did have trouble paying attention. Semenars were at night. Often I was tired. So, I started this thing of jotting down the names of the students present and putting a check after the name of whomever had spoken. The point of this was that if I was paying attention to when various people spoke to note it down, I had to follow the conversation and not daydream.

Well...it worked really well. I did pay attention every time I did this. But every year I tried it, I had to stop because other students would notice and suddenly, they all wanted to know how many times they'd talked and stuff like that. So, each year, I tried it and each time, I eventually had to stop because it was distracting the class.

Of course, if I'd had an I-Pad, I think I would have had a much better chance of not having someone look over my shoulder and see what I was doing.
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From:boc_imaginos
Date:September 15th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
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There seem to be two discussions, possibly three, going on in parallel, and people aren't doing a good job at distinguishing them.

First, there's e-books at St. John's. From what I'm reading - skimming over the discussions under the article and looking at the college's website - e-books would be of limited utility. They're a poor match for the specific environment St. John's creates. But also from what I'm reading, it seems unlikely that the sort of people who would attend St. John's would be terribly interested in using their iPads in class anyway. And it seems like the sort of thing that it would make more sense for the professors/tutors to discuss with the students, not just hand down a blanket rule about.

The second discussion is e-books at colleges and universities in general. Here, there are more arguments in favor of e-books, that I don't feel like repeating. I'm going to assume that people here are familiar with them or can figure them out with a bit of thought. E-books will be more useful for some sorts of classes than others. This will change as technology continues to change, of course.

The third is the general paper vs. electronic argument. This almost entirely boils down to personal preference, with the side issues of the effects on writers and publishers, and "ZOMG we'll lose our books when technology crashes!" (Yes, it's an issue. Yes, people blow it out of proportion.)

As noted before, I use both. Being able to carry hundreds of books at once in my pocket is *really* nice. But even with my Kindle, battery life is an issue; and it does lock up periodically, which is really irritating when I just want to read for a couple of minutes while I'm riding on the bus.

I'm not really making any argument here, other than to point out the unofficial motto of one of my online communities, "it's more complicated than that."
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:September 15th, 2010 12:00 pm (UTC)
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You are entirely right that e-books at St. John's and e-books at college are entirely different issues.

In general, I would think that e-books would be a great advantage at many colleges, reducing the cost of text books if they have an e-format, if nothing else.

In specific, St. John's is different in many ways. I don't really have an opinion on whether there should be e-books in the classroom or not, but I do think it would be in keeping with other things at St. John's if they kept them out.

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