Why Do College Students Stubbornly Insist On Reading Paper Books?

A generation at risk.

June 1, 2016

I’m worried about this generation of college students.  They simply don’t seem able to move beyond paper books.

Take a walk through the libraries on my campus, or stroll around the Green, and you will observe students intently reading from books made of paper.

What is wrong with students today?

Don’t they know that we digerati have assigned paper books to the recycling bin of history?

Why can’t our students get with the future?

Don’t they know that it is now possible to instantly download any book and read that book on a screen?

My suspicion is that many of these paper books that I witness students reading have been checked out from the Library.  Checked out!

Why would someone borrow a book from their academic library when they could pay for the (temporary / revocable) rights to experience a book from Jeff Bezos?  I don’t understand.

 A paper book is so - so singular.  All that time that students spend on paper books are lost opportunities to toggle, swipe, and double click to social media.

How can today’s students expect to survive in a future world of work where attention and time-on-task is measured in seconds if they stubbornly insist on investing their precious time with paper books?

Are we failing to equip today’s students for tomorrow’s economy if we are not helping them kick the paper book habit?

The future belongs to screens, not pages.  Pixels, not dead trees.

The fact that this generation of college students seems to insist on stubbornly maintaining their allegiance to a process of information transmission perfected in 1439 should give us all pause.  Gutenberg himself could be transported 577 years into the future and he would have no trouble understanding the behaviors of too many of our students.

What is to be done?

Maybe if we got rid of all the paper books from our academic libraries then our students would finally get the message.

If we don’t value physical books, surely neither will our students.

Perhaps we should require all of our students to take mandatory online courses (maybe in the summer before they arrive) on the benefits of digital books - and the dangers of the paper versions?

Of course, we could simply stop assigning any books in our classes - restricting course reading to content that was born and lives digitally.

Tweets, not chapters.  Blog posts, not books.

Our students may protest at first, but over time they will come to understand that we have taken their paper books for their own future benefit.



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