This time out, University of Manchester student Joe Walsh gives us his opinions on e-books.
Ain’t nobody got time for that… The popular phrase that went viral, I feel, is a fitting summary to the way the world works today and that includes education. This a world in which people get frustrated if Google takes 3 seconds to load; 15 years ago I was quite content to wait a 20 minutes for dial up. This type of attitude can quickly spill into the rest of our lives including the way we learn. The thought of churning through textbooks just to find a few useful references seems like a nightmare and raises the question that surely there is a better way? I have found myself falling into the trap of using a variety of websites, offering links to a whole host of e-books on any subject you can imagine. These sites have proved useful on more than one occasion in finding exactly what I need for an assignment within a matter of minutes. This being said it would be hard to persuade myself to spend all that effort in rummaging through a never ending library, finding several books and then scavenging for that reference several hours later. You could argue that I am over exaggerating; however, if I asked you to find a specific quote in this blog post would you read through all of it or simply press Ctrl+F and then search for the key words?
To see another side to the page (see what I did there?); if one were to do as I asked they would miss that hilarious pun, along with the points I have mentioned throughout. If we do the same when it comes to academic research can we also miss out? Are e-books a danger to our education system and can you really get the same experience from an e-book as a reliable paper back? There are those who claim that you can’t have the same ‘relationship’ with a text in digital form and there are those who enjoy that freedom to connect with the text to make annotations and to physically hold it. Overall not only do they find it easier to read but enjoy feeling part of the text and consequently get a much ‘richer’ experience. Perhaps that’s what it all comes down to; what experience the reader is looking for. I’m not saying we should read too much into this (stop me I’m on fire) but the truth is why can’t you have both? With software available now on web browsers such as Microsoft Edge you can make annotations on e-books just as easily as with pen and paper. If both were available within the library then students have the choice of either physical or digital. Film production companies realise that people will probably find their own digital copy, so they provide digital copies to go along with the DVD. Can’t publishers do the same with e-books? If both physical copies and digital links could be found in the library then students would have the choice like they always have: do it last minute and rush through or actually study and do the research through whatever medium suits them, their needs, and their preferences.
I’m not saying that this blog post is a page turner or a best seller (I couldn’t resist) but I am going off my own experience and the truth is that both ways are fine. Therefore, in this world of plenty, why are we arguing over which medium is best for our libraries, as I previously mentioned ‘Aint nobody got time for that’.
Joe Walsh, University of Manchester student