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The Evolution of Books

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The March issue of ASCD's Educational Leadership has been published, and as I'm sure many of you saw, the special edition of the ASCD SmartBrief highlighted material from the journal. I saw one piece, "Reading Remixed," which I found particularly intriguing because it focused, in part, on e-books.

According to the authors Joyce Kasman Valenza and Wendy Stephens, "The reading experience, the relationship between author and reader, and the book itself are evolving. And these shifts mean that many young people are embracing books and reading as never before."

Which is good news, right? The pair go on to discuss how the concept of books is evolving in this 21st-century digital age. Far from killing reading, the evolution has created a number of new opportunities for interactivity—both within e-books and via social media. E-books also make it possible for publishers to embed links to audio-visual elements, among other things.

The piece is well worth a look, if only because of the links they provide to digital books. My favorite place to download e-books, due to the breadth of its holdings (38,000 and counting), the ease of its use, and the fact that the publications are all out of copyright and free, is Project Gutenberg. The article also contains links to the International Children's Digital Library, which includes free content, and commercial sites such as Tumblebooks and Scholastic's BookFlix.

Will digital books replace hard-copy books? I certainly hope not. However, as a parent of children who love to read and as a voracious reader myself, I really appreciate the availability of e-books—particularly when I am (or we are) away from the house.

The downside of e-books, for me, is one of availability. With one desktop computer at home and multiple people and multiple schedules to organize, any e-books that are available online but not accessible via mobile platforms such as smartphones or electronic readers (such as iPads, Kindles, or Nooks) are simply not as useful as they could be, regardless of the bells and whistles that might accompany them.

What do you think?

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