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DEBATE: Paper or Plastic?

November 11, 2010

A documented conversation I had with my two selves (Old School Whitney and New School Whitney) after discovering that there will be a new e-reader launched aimed for children, Fable.

Old School Whitney: Really?

New School Whitney: What?

OSW: As if MSN, Facebook and text messages weren’t bad enough.

NSW: This is not the same.

OSW: It isn’t? The digital age is deteriorating the minds of children yet again.

NSW: It’s easy to snub your nose at technology but think about how e-devices can propel literature. Books are great but face it, books are dying. Some of your favourite bookstores have closed down and people are more wired than ever. Embrace it and adapt. You gotta think about the advantages here: its paperless, its instant, kids have more access to more books. This could be the saviour of the dying book breed.

OSW: It’s one thing having adults buy into an e-reader, and it is quite another having a kid get additional screen-time than (s)he already has. Kids are already addicts for all things flashing.

NSW: But we need alternative-thinking if we’re going to make literacy cool again. Kids just aren’t reading.

OSW: There’s something in my deepest core that sees pushing electronic devices on kids — and we’re not talking teens, this is geared towards Curious George reading picture book kids — is wrong. Let’s turn a 4-year-old into a device-junkie!

NSW: It’s just another way to market a product, a book.

OSW: I get it. I really do. I’m writing a kids book right now and there is money in the making of “stuff” for little people. And it’s all good so long as the “stuff” can’t potentially harm the little people. 47% of young media users have lower grades than kids that are lower media users. If that’s not harm I don’t know what is.

NSW: You’re still seeing the e-reader as a media device. It’s more than that. It’s a book. Yes, kids are essentially doomed already to a “wired” life unless otherwise heavily supervised. I’ve met Facebook addicts as young as 6. But this is still a book. It’s not so much about the way the words are presented but that they are presented at all. Stories should ignite the imagination no matter what the medium.

OSW: There was a woman on the bus with her little girl and the little girl was reading a story while Mommy was BBMing. The little girl kept ‘bothering’ Mommy about how to pronounce certain words. Wouldn’t it be nice if the little girl had her own e-reader so both her and Mommy would have silence, bowing down to a screen-god the whole ride home?

NSW: I don’t care if people are reading stories on Twitter, so long as they’re reading. You can’t ignore the benefits here. Not just for average kids but for lower-level learners or individuals with disabilities. We’ve heard the stories about the iPad helping both physically and neurologically disabled kids. It’s a new form of communication. It’s literally the difference between paper or plastic.

OSW: But it’s…

NSW: It’s?

OSW: It’s just wrong. I can’t read a Kindle or Kobo in the bathtub or cuddle up with it at night. I don’t see myself flipping the virtual pages of my future kids’ favourite bedtime story to them. Give me a break.

NSW: Times are changing.

OSW: Who sounds old now?

NSW: My point is that e-readers don’t replace books necessarily. You’re making this seem like a hostile take-over. People use their devices at convenience, in transition. It’s like the cell phone: I’ll call my friend while I’m on the bus but I’ll go over and talk to him/her face-to-face.

OSW: But that’s just it. We’re training our kids at younger and younger now NOT to talk face-to-face. This Fable is targeting very young children and teaching them that if they push a button, something happens. It’s like junk food, pleasurable but too much isn’t good for you.

NSW: Now you just sound like a technophobe. Or worse, a Luddite.

OSW: You can’t replace the smell of a musty book. You can’t replace the satisfaction of closing the covers of the first book you read as a kid.

NSW: But it’s not a replacement! [sigh] Ok, we’ll have to agree to disagree. You can choose to be paper.

OSW: And you can choose to be plastic.

I’m still torn about the subject. Thoughts?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan permalink
    November 12, 2010 3:08 pm

    I’m with OSW on this one, with a few flavours of NSW. The eco-guy in my loves the paperlessness of the whole thing, but the teacher stands firm knowing that the automated e-reader is just another step to removing the work the “busy parent” has to do to teach their child how to read.

    Yes, kids don’t read, but they’re also blank slates. It is our job to show them the value of reading and their own creativity. Interactive e-readers take that process away from them and the only ones who pay the price are the kids.

  2. November 14, 2010 1:31 am

    I think NSW has stronger debating skills but OSW has an overall powerful argument…like I said, I’m torn. Thanks for the comment SuperDan

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