Books (a Friday evening rant)

Books enable scholars to extend their reach. A single teacher can only have so many students. When the teacher writes a book, what that teacher has to say can be passed on to many students. Book may be expensive, but they rarely cost as much as the teacher who wrote the book.

Now we are going bookless. Books cost too much and the students can’t afford them. Now we offer free resources on the internet. Those free resources can be so much more than just a book. They can include not only text to be read, but audio to hear and video to see. And, compared to the books we used to use, it’s all free.

Well, maybe not. What about the students who can’t afford the hardware needed to access the online text, audio, and video? What about those who have the hardware, but cannot afford the subscription to get the internet piped into their homes? Well, that’s why we have computer labs on campus. If they cannot access their material at home, they can do it on campus. But when we make that big campus-wide shift away from books to internet content (free content!), do we strengthen our network so that it is more reliable? Do we up the bandwidth and speed to handle the capacity of more people demanding more from the network?

The free online content is easily available to many people simultaneously. Well, when they can afford the access. And when the electricity is working. A book – the old fashioned kind made out of paper – can only be used by one person at a time. But once one person has used it, the book can be passed on. It takes on a life as it imparts life. And books work when the power is off, amazing things that they are.

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