ATG Hot Topics 5/27/16

Erin Gallagherby Erin Gallagher

Another week down, and we’re diving headfirst into summer here on our campus. Most of the students and teaching faculty have left for research trips, internships, and holidays. It’s nice and quiet in the library, just in time for renovations! What’s going on at your library this summer? Do you offer many summer classes? Any special events going on? Or, as in my case, are you naively looking forward to finishing (ha!) a long list of projects you haven’t been able to touch for the past year? In another unsurprising validation of the printed word, Alexandra Alter’s piece in the New York Times provides some insight into what we’re buying and what’s fizzling out. I’m not sure how many more of these “print isn’t dead and people aren’t reading ebooks” articles I can stomach, but each one causes me to consider the “why?” factor. I have my own thoughts, though entirely unsubstantiated by research. Essentially, I look to the growing inability of readers to engage deeply with a text. Even the students I teach in library instruction sessions admit that if they really want to absorb something, whether for a class or for pleasure, they try to get it in print because, otherwise, there are far too many distractions floating around in the digital landscape. The college-age students I speak with seem increasingly aware of their own reading behaviors and how they have to adjust based on the nature of what they’re reading. Articles? Sure, we can read/skim through those on a phone or tablet. Genre novels? We might still reach for the Kindle or another e-reader. The classics? The “heavy” books? Textbooks? Again, unsubstantiated, but it seems that this is where readers go back to the printed page. It’s tough to immerse yourself in a complex narrative when the Internet beckons. I would love to get others’ thoughts on why ebook sales are slipping and why print book sales are growing. Is it related to the “return to vinyl” movement?

I’ll be traveling to San Francisco this weekend for NCORE, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education. I’ll be sure to report back on the conference (my first time attending and first time in San Fran!) in my next Hot Topics.

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