Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tell Me That It's Just a Bad Dream....Please.

photo by svenwerk

Now, I know that a few of you, my dear readers, are fans of the e-book and I may have mentioned that I have an issue or two with the whole subject. Well, an article that I happened upon on The Boston Globe website brought to reality my worst fears of where the Evil E-Readers could lead. Where it will lead if many have their way, like the headmaster of the Cushing Academy.

It seems that The Powers That Be at the Cushing Academy have decided to get rid of all the books in their library. Yes, let me say that again...they have gotten rid of all the books and decided to go totally digital.
“When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books,’’ said James Tracy, headmaster of Cushing and chief promoter of the bookless campus.
In place of the stacks, they are spending $42,000 on three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the Internet and $20,000 on special laptop-friendly study carrels....And to replace those old pulpy devices that have transmitted information since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 1400s, they have spent $10,000 to buy 18 electronic readers made by Amazon.com and Sony.
Sorry, I need to pause. I can't seem to catch my breath... ((gasp))

It seems that one issue is that books take up too much space, space that can now be used for a "$50,000 coffee shop that will include a $12,000 cappuccino machine."
The librarian is not thrilled to be in charge of a book-less library, the head of the history department is concerned with losing the 'dignity' of the traditional library.
They worry about an environment where students can no longer browse rows of voluptuous books, replete with glossy photographs, intricate maps, and pages dog-eared by generations of students. They worry students will be less likely to focus on long works when their devices are constantly interrupting them with e-mail and instant messages. They also worry about a world where sweat-stained literature is deemed as perishable as all the glib posts on Facebook or Twitter.
One student said “It’s a little strange,but this is the future."

Is it? Is it really?
I think this is one of the most horrible ideas I have heard of, an idea fraught with problems. Lack of illustrations, lack of many graphs and diagrams that are readable on e-formats. Formats that may be totally obsolete in a short amount of time as many computer technologies popular a few years ago are now. But, it seems the kids were not using the library enough, so the best idea is to just get rid of the books! Wouldn't want to address the question of how to instill a lifelong love of reading in the children. No, just get rid of the books. Cheaper, less space used. More room for a cappuccino machine. Oh yes, I can see the glow in the eyes of many an administrator.

I'm sorry, but I am feeling a little faint and need to go lie down for a minute. Then I all going to be sure all my books, my beautiful books, are safe on their shelves.


  1. Hee Hee! I knew immediately when I saw the picture what this would be about. Just make sure your doors are locked...the Kindle gremlins are hungry!

  2. yes, and Amazon could be erasing some of my books during the night...not like they haven't done it to their 'customers' before!

  3. After you catch your breath, try waking up to reality. To borrow an analogy provided by a happy Cushing student, you sound like the village blacksmith watching an automobile going by his shop for the first time. Print books are a fun form of recreation, but are no longer the predominant means of information transfer. Kudos to pioneers like Dr. Tracy!

  4. There are people who still love horses...and they need blacksmiths, thank you very much! :-)

    When Amazon censors your 'library', don't come crying to me, Mr./Ms Anonymous.

  5. Reality? Sad is what it is.

    I'll be hanging out with you Caite, in the smithy!

  6. WHAAAAAAAAAT? ! ? ! ?

    Seems to me like he has some wicked karma coming his way. What about archaeology? What about when we're dead and gone and there is nothing left to find but lifeless plastic squares that cannot be turned on? At least books can be translated. Fail.

  7. Caite,

    You missed the analogy. I happen to love horses for recreation, not for transportation. How many people do you know who ride a horse to work?

    As for censorship, I don't think so. Any revolution that has increased the opportunities for data transmission has led to an exponential increase in the democratization of ideas, not the reverse. This blog is an illustration of that.

    It is ironic that the slow death of print media is being widely decried by the very people who contribute to it: electronic media users (like you).

    I suggest reading Dr. Tracy's position at cushing.org.

  8. Golly Anon, so serious.
    I assure you I got the analogy...hence the smilie!

    As much as I delight in my occasional Anti-Kindle rant, as I have said before, I see some limited usefulness in e-books. Limited being the key word here. I also see very serious and unanswered issues with them. Issues that make announcing the end of books and the clearing out of libraries very premature and very sad.

    Odd how the good headmaster still has his books though..

  9. My friend sent me an email a couple of days ago with the subject line ‘your worst nightmare’, in the email was a link to this article. She was right. I have no problem with electronic media for information gathering but to get rid of all the books in a library? Just thinking about it makes me kind of woozy. And instead they will have a $12,000 cappuccino machine. It hardly seems a fair trade.

  10. I am shocked that anyone would think that this is a good thing! When I think that my grandkids may not be able to get a hold of a PHYSICAL book, it just makes me want to cry!
    Shame on anyone who thinks that this is just a natural progression, it's not, it's criminal, that's what it is!

  11. Becca, I am all for coffee too, but I agree it is not a fair trade.

    Debbie, it would seem that Ms/Mr Anon. thinks it is a wonderful idea! I truly do not understand it myself.

  12. A more careful understanding of the issue will reveal that your concerns are not valid...perhaps you should do more research on the subject (electronically), as I suggested (www.cushing.org, to start).

    No need to hug your bookshelf; no one is going to storm your house to take away your books. Dr. Tracy loves books, has hundreds of them, and is not trying to ban them. He is, in fact, allowing his students to access more books than they ever possibly could have accessed through print versions.

    Your grandchildren would be lucky if you got a job at Cushing Academy; they could have access to a wonderful collection of print-version children's books (staying in their collection). When they get to be high school students, the entire Library of Congress will be at their fingertips, only electronically. Sad? Do you also lament that they will find vinyl music records only in their grandparents' attic? Or, yes, ancient scrolls in a museum?

    Print books won't disappear altogether: the touch, the smell, the character will still be found. But they are increasingly not being used for academic research anymore, and anyone who refuses to accept this has their head in the sand.

  13. I don't even know where to begin. I'm trying to get one of my YA librarian friends to do a post for me on this.

  14. I certainly don't hope this is the future. I have a Kindle, but it won't ever totally replace books for me.

  15. That is wrong... just wrong on so many levels.

    One of the things I miss most about not being home is not being able to wake up and seeing my wall of books greet me with a, "good morning".

    Argh! I'm going to have nightmares today.

    And, here's the deal - I love technology. I love my gadgets. I impulsively go ahead and buy so many things, just because I love my gadgets. My place used to look like a wire factory, before I tidied it up. And I still am not attracted to the Kindle at all.


  16. Thank you once again for your concern my dear Anonymous friend, but I think that I understand the issues quite well. I am not a Luddite, obviously, but neither do I think that technology is the answer to every problem of society. Certainly not every problem in education or we would have the best educated children that the world has ever known throughout history and we do not.

    Your posts, while very entertaining, do not deal with the very real problems with electronic books. Problems that may one day be addressed but most certainly have not been at this point and should be before we decide to cart a library away.

    And nothing that you or the good headmaster has said addressed the basic issue that these students were not reading to start with. Does anyone at Cushing wonder why that is and what can be done about it? Or do they think that it was just those dusty paper books that were keeping the students from reading and now that they can carry them around on their shiny Kindles they will read up a storm? I have my doubts.

    I read your greatly admired Dr. Tracy's explanation and found his arguments less than convincing and his logic flawed. As did most of the hundreds of commenters on the original article. But he doesn't work for me and I am certainly not spending an outrageous amount of money to send a child to that school. So if the parents that do are happy with his decision and the education they are paying for, that is their business.

    And just as another minor point, these very real issues will not be addressed by you writing slightly insulting posts while hiding behind your "Anonymous" name. That is less than a serious discussion among people that care about the subject deserve.

  17. Okay, let's talk some more.

    I understand that my posts are provocative and blunt. I do not sugarcoat things. I do not mean to insult you. Of the dozens of blogs out there on this subject, I chose to respond solely to yours because (a) I find you and your readers to be intelligent, articulate book-lovers--and you have a light touch which I appreciate-- and (b) forgive me (mild insult warning!), but I find that your posts typify the short-sighted, knee-jerk reaction that so many people have to this development. Your sentimentality for the way things are leads you to have blinders on.

    I think you have already deduced this, but indeed I am a member of the Cushing Academy community (student, teacher, parent, staff member, alum) who knows Dr. Tracy. I love Cushing, and I love books. I do not assume to speak for anyone else in the community, but I think I can offer you and your readers an insider's perspective on this issue. Like you and almost everyone else on this blog, I prefer to keep my full identity undisclosed. But, if you rather that I have a moniker, I will call myself "Thomas", as in Thomas Parkman Cushing. If this is not acceptable, I will not waste my time (or presume to take the time of you and your readers) and quickly move on with hat-in-hand. If it is okay, then I will continue my occasional dialogue. Bring it!

    One more thing for today...this development was bound to happen sooner or later. Frankly, book lovers should celebrate that it is being promulgated by someone like Dr. Tracy rather than some uneducated techno-jerk. Like it or not, he is one of your own.


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