Thursday, September 23, 2010

Digital Texts in a Digital World

Clifford Lynch's The Battle to Define the Future of the Book in the Digital World discusses the future of printed books and E-book reading appliances and software. In today's society, everyone is becoming quite dependent on electronic means of communication and education--but does this benefit everyone?

Over the summer, I received a link to a survey from MSU asking my opinion on the switch to E-books, meaning printed textbooks and coursepacks that we are all so used to wouldn't be as readily available in the bookstores, and all readings would be either digitally scanned onto ANGEL or purchased and used on one of the E-book reading appliances and software mentioned in Lynch's article. I immediately thought about how much that would change my ability to effectively learn in almost all of my classes, especially with multiple and/or large textbooks, and the amount of reading assigned each week. Not only can I not imagine staring at a computer or any other electronic means of reading for that length of time, but I wouldn't be able to highlight the text or take notes on the side of the page without printing it out, which is both a waste of paper and ink, and defeats the purpose of producing the books electronically as opposed to printed.

Best Practices in Accessible Text is a very practical, accommodating article--in it, options to academically accommodate a wide variety of needs of students are discussed. For visually impaired learners, there are large print and Braille readings, and for hearing impaired students, texts are visually accommodating, either through video or sign language. For those with learning disabilities, there are texts with more pictures than words, or flashcards and storyboards, and texts can be read aloud through the computer. Although it is sometimes overlooked, there are many ways different types of readers can be accommodated to, especially when simply reading a printed text in a bound, 12 point Times New Roman font is not an option or is difficult.

In a digital world, printed texts are eventually bound to become obsolete. Although I am a strong advocate for printed text, society is becoming so dependent on technology. Hopefully, however, the accommodations discussed in both articles, especially Best Practices in Accessible Text, will become more prevalent in technology, making the switch to a technologically dependent society much easier for all students, and printed technology won't be as missed.