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BALIS workshop, SFPL


Of COURSE I stood up for The Book (in this case, Patrick McDonnell’s Me, Jane), but, really we all did–moderator Nina Lindsay and my co-panelists Kristin McLean and Jason Griffey–in the March 4 panel on e-books sponsored by the Bay Area Library and Information System.

We were speaking in the wake of HarperCollins’s announcement about their new rules for libraries and ebooks, but that didn’t take up as much of the discussion as I thought it would. Mainly, this is because ebook-reading seems to be mostly an adult thing, at least at this point. Kristen’s research seems to bear this out–that while kids are adept consumers of various digital products and devices, they still seem to like their book-reading on paper between covers. And Jason acknowledged that while he expects his daughter to do ever more of her reading on screen as she ages, for now books are definitely part of the mix.

You know, there’s reading and then there are books. I already do most of my reading on a screen, don’t you? It seems to me that the future is going to involve a rather interesting parsing of what we mean by recreational reading, and just what part librarians will play in that mix.

My point with Me, Jane was that some books depend upon format more than others, that paper (in this case) allows you to see the textures that are an important part of the storytelling strategy, and that page-turns can be crucial. And my visit later that weekend with grandson Miles got me thinking about something else: kids want their screens to do stuff– move, squeak, respond. There are a lot of books where those things simply don’t need to happen; in fact, we don’t want them to happen. But does this mean printed books will survive, or that a taste for no-frills long-form reading will die off?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. rockinlibrarian says:

    >I think I agree with you on every point– which is cool, because I don't feel like I've really SEEN all those different points and opinions expressed by someone else in one place before. Definitely the "I already do most of my reading on a screen, don't you?" resonated with me, as also the actual way kids think of books (and what they expect from a screen), and the benefits of a paper version book, and so on…

    (word verification is "extured": is that what happens when you take a format-dependent paper book and try to make it electronic?)

  2. Roger Sutton says:

    >SLJ has an article contradicting my understanding of ebook reading among kids.

  3. >I sadly do find that kids now expect to exert a lot of control over books. They aren't willing to just sit back and go with the author's imagination–they want to make choices, or lift flaps, or poke a button. I can only see it getting worse with e-books, where parents won't even get to be the one in control of turning the page at the right moment.

    I'll be glad if I'm wrong, though.

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