Modern technology and books go together

Letter writer says there is room for both in the world.

Dear Editor

I’d like to respond to your editorial “Books will always have their Place” (13 March), in which you make some very valid points.

Firstly the matter of electronic meetings. I fully agree with you that electronic communication at meetings takes away the immediacy of ‘being in the room’, and where local meetings are concerned (within, say, our School District), I would personally not want to see electronic attendance adopted at the expense of all else.

However, there are instances where electronic attendance can be both desirable and beneficial. As you are aware, a number of our Partners in the School District have difficulty attending, for example, our Education Committee meetings. This is a particular problem for some Partners in the Lillooet area and beyond, where their work commitments prevent them attending a 4.30 meeting. It also has to be said, in fairness, that from time to time Councillors, School Trustees, and others, have commitments outside of the district which prevent their attendance, and in instances such as this the facility of electronic attendance enables them to fill all of their roles. Proper tele-conferencing can, I believe, increase attendance at meetings and, to a degree, enhance the democratic process, which is the reason I support the Education Committee’s decision to explore with Partners their reaction or desire to participate in meetings in that manner. We need to remember, too, that we have witnessed successful ‘tele-conferencing’ in our own homes for years: many major television news interviews are carried on in that manner, and are none the worse for it.

Secondly, like you, I have a fondness for physical books: I must do, since I produce them, work with and around them seven days a week, and have a house overflowing with them. I, too, resisted eBooks for some time, chiefly because having to spend many hours a week reading from a computer screen made me feel that enough could be enough for one day! Times and views change, however, and I now use a Kindle on a daily basis. For the benefit of your readers, perhaps I could outline what I see as some of the major benefits provided by eBooks and eBook readers:

– Cost Savings: Anyone who buys books cannot have failed to notice the ever increasing cost of purchasing them. The average new hardback novel now costs in the $30–$40 range; the average paperback $15–20. Most will be read once, many consigned to second-hand/thrift stores quite quickly. An eBook of the same new novel can generally be purchased at a lesser cost than the paperback, and thousands of eTexts are available free from major online retailers such as amazon.com, or through literary projects such as Project Gutenberg. EBooks are a means for our public and school libraries to provide books they otherwise cannot afford.

– Immediacy: I’m sure I’m not the only one who possesses the gift of impatience: if I come across a review or mention of a book that looks interesting, I generally want to get hold of it quickly. Living in Ashcroft my options for purchasing that book are (a) drive to Kamloops, which makes purchasing the book a pretty expensive exercise, or (b) order it online, which means a wait of a week to ten days for delivery. With an eBook, I have it available to read within a minute of pressing the ‘download’ button on a computer.

– Availability: Books go out of print, and it can become an expensive exercise to purchase anything other than a former best-seller on the second-hand market. Once an eBook is created, there is no reason why it cannot be available indefinitely, and generally at a reduced cost over time.

– Portability: No longer do I need to pack a suitcase full of heavy books when I go on holiday. My Kindle tells me that I currently have 1,046 books available to me, with space for many more. It means that I can read what I want, when I want, whether that’s sitting at home, waiting in a doctor’s waiting room, over a quiet cup of coffee in Starbucks, wherever. It has also resulted in my using a lot more ‘downtime’ for reading, and I consider that a benefit.

– Legibility: My ageing eyes have difficulty coping these days with the minute print often encountered in traditional books. With an eBook that’s no longer a problem, since I can vary the font size to suit needs and lighting conditions. This, of course, is also a benefit to those readers who need ‘large print’ books, but are limited by choice and availability: now any book can be ‘large print’ simply by pressing a button or two.

I will end here with the statement that my love for the traditional book will not change, but my reading experience will be enhanced by the eBook. If eBooks bring reading to more people, more easily and at lesser cost, then they can be nothing but good. And, at the end of the day, we all surely want more people to read and literacy to develop and grow.

Christopher Roden

Chair, Education Committee

S.D. 74 (Gold Trail)