Friday, April 05, 2013

RIP: Print

If you believe what you see and hear and read, then books in print are history. Another recent article about the demise of print and the vendors that sell it appeared in Knowledge@Wharton. Citing lost sales by Barnes & Noble Booksellers even following the bankruptcy of its biggest competitor, Borders Books, the story discusses how bookstores, among many other retail outlets, suffer from the "showrooming effect," the consumer practice of checking a product in one store and buying it elsewhere, usually online, at a better price. We have all seen store customers search for the best price with their smartphone in one hand and with the store product in the other. Perhaps we have done it ourselves.

What the end of print means
Evidence of the e-readers and e-learners we have become is everywhere. In fact, it is so prevalent that most people born after 1990 (and they are in our workforce) knows no other way than online reading. Public schools are moving toward the iPad as the sole source of reading material. This is why online education through sites like Coursera, EdX, and Udacity are growing in popularity, and why professors and consultants like me are doing more online courses than ever. It is also why one of the guardians of our language, the National Council of Teachers of English, said four years ago that we have to rethink what constitutes acceptable writing and how to teach to that new standard. (See Writing in the Twenty-first Century by Kathleen Blake Yancey.)

Teachers tend toward conservatism, many only grudgingly allowing new ideas into what they believe to be a time-tested curriculum. Those who take that attitude these days are fast becoming dinosaurs. Teachers, especially writing teachers, must allow their students to use technology. It has become the only way to write.