eBooks – Is Our Future a Utopia or a Dystopia?

Imagine a world where there are no libraries, no textbooks, no newspapers. Where all forms of printed publications are obsolete and where the touch-screen tablets we are used to having have taken over.

While this imagined scenario may not exist now (or ever), it is apparent that technology continues to show its influence over our society. Technology’s influence has both benefits and detriments that can lead people into viewing our future as either a utopia or a dystopia.

In the video above, a baby is seen displaying an understanding of how an iPad works. Yet, when the baby is given various magazines to look at, she just examines them in confusion, unsure of how to get the magazines to work in the same way her family’s iPad does. One has to wonder, does this video display any implications of what the future holds?

pearson

Source: blog.mrmeyer.com, Google Images

As time goes on, more and more schools are beginning to implement online textbooks (or “eBooks”) into their student’s curriculum. For example, Pearson is a major publishing company for textbooks that has incorporated this new use of technology. Depending on who you ask, people can view this new technology as either good or bad.

From a utopian perspective, one could say that online books in general are easier and more convenient. And in many ways, this statement is true. With a Kindle or iPad, you can store many eBooks in one place with no extra weight. It is no longer necessary for students to have heavy backpacks and you can have an entire library in the palm of your hands wherever you go. In a world where efficiency is key, eBooks have found themselves experiencing more and more public interest.

However, from a dystopian perspective, one could also say that the use of online books is also contributing to a lack of critical reading. When a person has a physical copy of a book, they are able to write, annotate and take notes in it. It can even be argued that reading an actual physical publication can make it easier to concentrate on what is being said. Tablets (and technology in general) sometimes make it very easy to get distracted. For example, a person can be reading an online version of The Great Gatsby when they decide to go on Facebook instead. With just one or two clicks and a few spare seconds, the person can be on their Facebook feed commenting on their best friend’s latest profile picture.

In this AT&T commercial, the Internet and the bookstore are basically competing against one another. This commercial dates back to 1998 and even back then, books in general were shown as slower and less convenient.  danah boyd says in her article, “Incantations for Muggles: The Role of Ubiquitous Web 2.0 Technologies in Everyday Life”  that “technology has become a ubiquitous part of everyday life.”  She goes on to say that “what makes users happiest and most passionate are when their priorities are met, not when the ideals of society are met.” With just a little observance, we can see everyday how new technology is steadily finding its way into all aspects of our lives. eBooks are just one of the many examples of this.

My questions would then be: Do you view the increasing developments of eBooks as a positive or a negative? How have your experiences with eBooks been?

By William Tolan

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2 comments

  1. The increasing development of ebooks is definitely something I view as a positive thing. However, I fear that ebooks might replace paper all together, hopefully not soon! With ebooks publishers can create more interactive interfacings for text books. It’s a little gimmicky, but its a tactic that can be used to compel students to actually read the text.

    I’ve had a kindle for several years now and I actually find it to be much easier to use. It’s not so cumbersome, all you have to do is tap the screen to turn a page. I can easily highlight passages I want to go back to, and it weighs next to nothing. Kindles are the travel-readers best friend. Since purchasing my kindle I still purchase paper bound books to read. There is something about a stocked bookshelf, of books that I have read, that makes me feel accomplished. You could say I am torn between the two. Ebooks make life so easy and they’re good for the environment, but tactile books provide such a different sensory experience. An experience that will be lost forever if ebooks dominate.

  2. eBooks leave me very confused. I have the part of me that loves the environmentally conscientiousness side of eBooks. They save paper, trees, and reduce waste. What is not to love? Your video is the answer to that question. The other part of me recognizes that there is a beauty behind real books, magazines, newspapers, etc. It kills me that children, today, do grasp the history and context of literature and media. I am a firm believer that in order to understand who we are and where we are today, we must understand our past.

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