Maggie Robinson

Apr 21
Books Are Obsolete

I had a student say this to me the other day, and I wanted to hit him on the head with a big fat volume of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. His class came in to the library to do research for their Pop Culture class, something to do with tying fashion trends and events in history together.

(Did you know when times are tough, people wear longer skirts? I’m not sure I believe that, but that’s what the teacher said. Guess we’ll all be tripping over our hemlines and falling on our faces pretty soon with the way the economy is going.)

Anyway, our library has an outstanding collection of fashions-through-the-decades books, as well as lots of history resources. Nearly every kid turned up their nose at my suggestion to go looking in the 624s and asked for a computer instead.

Now I’m a big fan of computer research. I’m an armchair traveler and Googler extraordinaire. But if I could get my hands on the right book and flip pages, that’s what I’d do first.

I know that to reach young people today, you’ve got to go digital, technological, fast-fast-fast. I blame it on Sesame Street with its bite-size scenes and endless hours of blowing up things in video games. I wonder if romance writers in the future will have to do this:

“Rblla, I luv u. U driv me wld w/pashun. B min 2nite.

So, am I completely archaic— an old lady who’d rather soak in the freestanding bathtub with a book than read it on a screen? Please predict the future of fiction through your crystal ball. Are you a fan of YA literature? I recommend Jennifer Donnelly’s A Northern Light.

You’ll recognize Max from Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, one of my kids’ (and my) favorite books. It is only ten sentences long, but every word counts. Soon to be a major motion picture!

15 comments to “Books Are Obsolete”

  1. Stephanie J
     · April 21st, 2008 at 10:59 am · Link

    It’s really unfortunate that so many people will only rely on computer sources nowadays. I love a good research book. Then again, it can get frustrating looking for the book that has the exact information I’m looking for so it’s not rare that I turn to the internet. The ability to search for specific combinations of phrases is wonderful!

    That being said, I still don’t think books are obsolete, nor will they become so. Susan Hatler had a good post a few weeks ago about ebooks (the Kindle) versus hard copies of books and I just don’t think we’ll be replacing hard copies of books anytime soon – thank goodness!

  2. BernardL
     · April 21st, 2008 at 3:58 pm · Link

    “Rblla, I luv u. U driv me wld w/pashun. B min 2nite.”


  3. Janga
     · April 21st, 2008 at 4:37 pm · Link

    I don’t think books will ever become obsolete, but I do think they may become the medium of choice for a small, select group. Even I with my ever expanding keeper shelves am eyeing the Kindle with longing.

    Maggie, I laughed at your Where the Wild Things Are reference. Our boys loved it too; we went through several copies. But the grands, who also love it, read it on the TV screen via a DVD that includes interactive games. 🙂

  4. irisheyes
     · April 21st, 2008 at 4:43 pm · Link

    I don’t think books will become obsolete, but the times they are a changin’!

    My daughter told me the older day she writes better at a computer than she does with paper and pencil. She says the thoughts flow out easier and she doesn’t worry about making errors until the end when she can go back and correct.

    And I heard the end of a conversation she was having with my husband last night. My sister told her to take shorthand to make taking notes easier and my husband said it might as well be leek speak – that’s what they’re using now anyway!

  5. Elyssa Papa
     · April 21st, 2008 at 5:06 pm · Link

    Great blog, Maggie. I don’t think books will become obsolete… that Kindle thing scares me. For me, I love having the actual book in my hand, turning pages, and of course… the smell of a new book.

  6. Maggie Robinson
     · April 21st, 2008 at 6:13 pm · Link

    The Kindle and stuff like it are going to have to get a whole lot cheaper before I get into it, Ely. Knowing me I’d spill Coke on it or something.

    Bernard, I really do worry about language (and spelling!!!) development.

    Steph, I’m all for computer research, but kids don’t even seem to know how to use an index or table of contents anymore. We also have some funny cartoons on Wikipedia in the library, which is great sometimes—but college profs won’t allow it as a source because anybody could write anything. There is probably as much misinformation online as there is information.

    Janga, I’m just glad my kids got the “real thing.” I love Max and his wolf suit. If I were designing an interactive game I’d probably have him sticking his fork into things (but not the cute dog).

    Irish, oddly enough, I’m like your daughter too, although my typing skills are famously sucky. But I “create” much better in Word than I can with a yellow legal pad and pen.

  7. MistyJo
     · April 21st, 2008 at 9:46 pm · Link

    I don’t think that books will become obsolete, too. At least I hope they want. I like having a book in my hands. It feels permanent. Plus, I can stare at a screen for only so long.

    My worry about all the reliance upon computers by the recent generations is the decline in handwriting. Maggie, your text message scares me. I’ve yet to send my first text message via my cell phone.

  8. Tessa Dare
     · April 22nd, 2008 at 3:19 am · Link

    Oh, I love Where the Wild Things Are! It’s the most perfect picture book ever created, IMO.

    Whether they’re printed on paper or downloaded to a Kindle, books – as in, novels or volumes of compiled and analyzed information – aren’t going to disappear. They may keep morphing with the technology, though. I do covet the Kindle, but I also love my paper books, too. I think they’re safe for a while yet. Certainly we are a long way from technology that would create a truly satisfying electronic version of Where the Wild Things Are, for instance.

  9. Kelly Krysten
     · April 22nd, 2008 at 5:50 am · Link

    Great topic! I don’t think books are obsolete the New York Time’s list is a great indicator of this. I think kids today are the same as kids in the past. Some love books, some have never read a book-I didn’t realize that the latter existed until I got to college and met kids who were dead serious when they said this.
    I just can’t see a future where there are no books or it’s all e-books or short comic style books. Books are always in fashion no matter what those plebians say.
    Also, I’ve always loved Where the Wild Things Are!

  10. Maggie Robinson
     · April 22nd, 2008 at 6:10 am · Link

    Tessa, you have excellent taste, but we knew that.:) I agree with the morphing, too. It’s also completely positive for technology to give access to everyone. Google Books, for example, is a marvel.

    Kelly, I get kids in the library all the time who say, “I don’t read.” And they sound like they’re bragging. It makes me sad. On the other hand, we do check out a lot of books and most teachers require at least one print source for reports.

    Misty, texting on my cell phone? Hah. I can’t even remember the # and forget to charge it. I keep it for emergencies only and can’t get hooked like everyone else who has one continuously attached to their ear. First off, I’d much rather use e-mail. Second, I just don’t have that much to say!

  11. terrio
     · April 22nd, 2008 at 11:28 am · Link

    I can’t imagine books going away but I’m not surprised that student said that. My younger brother has no grammar skills at all because he’s done things electronically for so long. I can’t stand to get emails from him with not a single capital letter or period. Makes me nuts.

    My daughter loves to read books so that’s encouraging. And my professors don’t allow wikipedia references or too many online sources. But my library won’t let us check out reference books and I don’t have hours to spend in the library doing the research.

    I hate to text but I do it now and then. Except I use English instead of text speach so it takes me forever to send one message. I figure it’s a phone, just freaking call me!

  12. Tiffany Kenzie
     · April 22nd, 2008 at 12:01 pm · Link

    I love books. The feel of them, the smell of them. How can we switch over to a digital world? I can’t do it. And you can’t get EVERYTHING online now. Not a complete volumes of books that are helpful for research and to read.

    I do like YA, but mostly para.

    And on language and spelling development. I’m in a college. I see what the kids write. It get’s worse and worse with each class.

  13. Lisa
     · April 22nd, 2008 at 12:03 pm · Link

    I hope books never become obsolete. I love the feel of a book in my hands. The smell of the pages is divine.I’ve attempted to read e-books, but it’s not the same as holding the book in your hands.

    I enjoy Meg Cabbot’s YA Princess Diary series. I always thought I might indulge in YA writing at some point. It stems from unresolved childhood issues:)

    Nice blog Maggie.

  14. La Belle Americaine
     · April 22nd, 2008 at 10:56 pm · Link

    I think I’m having an attack of the vapors. I can’t imagine life without books. The smell. The texture. The taste–ahem, where was I? Oh yes–as a total and insane bibliophile, I cannot fathom the distaste with which so many people view books. My college library has scores and scores of books lining the shelves full of so much information I need for my books and 90% of them haven’t been borrowed in twenty or thirty, or more years. What’s even more insane is that when I dare to borrow a few, the librarians look at me funny. Hello…library; books; patron; borrow. It’s as though the concept is completely foreign to them.

  15. Maggie Robinson
     · April 23rd, 2008 at 6:03 am · Link

    Terrio, I’ll never be able to stamp out the nitpicky English teacher in me either. Kids send a lot of stuff to the library printer and I just about weep when I read it.

    La Belle, welcome to my blog! No fainting here. I believe we are all staunch proponents of the written word in book form. You’re lucky your library hasn’t put those old books on the discard pile—there’s some sort of protocol for discarding books that haven’t been checked out in X number of years. Shudder.

    Tiff, I have to read YA with my book club girls and have been surprised by how much I enjoy it.

    Lisa, YA is really hot in the pub world right now. Go for it! (free therapy, LOL)

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