E-Books, and my increasingly cluttered bookshelves

Approximately 3 minutes after informing my wife that I was accepted to IU, my wife began packing. There was still snow on the ground at SUNY Potsdam, the temperature couldn’t have been over 25*F, and it was early March, we wouldn’t be leaving until May 31. That didn’t stop her.

Part of the moving process was the paring down of our book collection. We had both accumulated two large (and three smaller) bookshelves between the two of us, full of history, art history, fantasy, and science fiction books (and a few education, instructional design, and technology “How To” books). Paring down our collection involved carting perhaps 7-10 wine-boxes full of books (graciously donated by the winery that I had been working for). While many of the books did not make the move, all of the bookshelves did.

Those bookshelves now hold many things, few of which are books (projects, collectables, old cameras my grandfather gave me). Coincidentally, just after the move I purchased my Nook Color tablet, with an interest in exploring mobile computing, though I also wanted to have a (much) smaller repository for my book collection.

Looking back over the past 3 years, I have purchased a grand total of 1 physical textbooks, including the duration of my Masters in Ed Tech, and my semester+ of PhD courses. 1 textbook. All of the other resources were found online (articles, chapters of books scanned by professors, or e-book formats of books). The cost savings was significant. The ability to edit, annotate, and perhaps most importantly, SEARCH became invaluable (The minus of this entire thing being that I no longer get a workout carrying books to and from class).

My wife and I also had the opportunity to work on the creation of a Digital Library for the Computer Science, Organizational Leadership and Technology department, of which we were a part of at SUNY Potsdam – a one-stop shop sort of local (departmental only) library with articles and book chapters organized by class for students to “check out” digitally. Fitting that our department took this approach as leaders in educational technology. It’s also what got my wife interested in Library Science (she was just accepted to SLIS at IU for this coming fall).

The e-book revolution has an opportunity to change the world and access to information in a similar manner that Gutenberg did with his printing press, or that Al Gore did with the Internet. The ability to store Libraries of Alexandria in the palm of one’s hand, and have access to view, annotate, and search will have a profound impact on the way we access information.

Not to mention the Trees. The Lorax would be proud too, I would imagine.

But this focus is just on consuming information, reading books. One side of the coin. e-books also allow for much cheaper access to publishing for everyone! Students who have created e-books to demonstrate their knowledge in classes I have observed through many of the e-book publishing sites available. My wife and my Aunt have both published their own books (one a fantasy novel, the other a murder mystery), one which is still being edited (wonder when Beth will finish that…), and one which is published in both e-book form and in physical form. Control is being wrested from the hands of publishers to that of writers. This will only make the sharing of knowledge, ideas, and stories easier and more open.

But it may also make bookshelf makers sad, as their trade become less about the storing of knowledge, and more about the display of trinkets, baubles, and memorabilia. I’m not sure if we should even call them bookshelves in my house anymore, and instead default to “Fishtank stand alpha, Fishtank stand beta, pony shelf, and stuff shelves.”

Because really, that’s what they’ve become.

Beth's 'Bookshelf' which holds part of her My Little Pony Collection

Beth's 'Bookshelf' which holds part of her My Little Pony Collection

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