Book Trends Blog

May 24, 2011

Raising the Next Generation of Readers by Bob Spear

We sell a book in our bookstore that elementary school teachers have been clamoring for. Roaring Brook Press published it and Lane Smith wrote and illustrated it. The title is It’s A Book. A picture book for 4-7 year-old children, it’s also hilarious to adults. It features three characters: a mouse, a monkey, and a Jack Ass. Like too many of our youngsters today, Jack Ass has never seen a book. Why? Maybe it’s because his parents have been too ready to use electronic babysitters. For example, when we asked our son what our grandson needed for Christmas, he said, “Anything, as long as it’s electronic.”

Given this all too common attitude, Lane Smith’s story progresses. Monkey is seated, quietly reading. Jack Ass approaches and asks, “What’s that?”

“It’s a book.”

“How do you scroll down?”

“I don’t. I turn the page. It’s a book.”

“Do you blog with it?”

“No, it’s a book.”

The conversation continues in the same vein. Finally, curiosity gets the better of Jack Ass. He asks to see the book and gets totally hooked. At the end, he reassures Monkey that he’ll charge it up when he’s done.

Monkey replies, “You don’t have to. It’s a book, Jack Ass.”

Although this is a cutely funny book, it’s also scarey in that it’s the direction our society is headed. Because of the convenience and relative cheapness of ebooks, we are steering a new generation away from printed books and into the high technology of now and in the future. It’s a brave new world we’re headed toward. I keep predicting that bookstores may be things of the past within 10 years. Can any of you make a case that proves me wrong? I’d love to hear your opinions. Remember, we all love physical books; however, are they on the outs? What do you think?



  1. I love physical books. I gave up and bought a Kindle because of eyestrain (you can change fort size.)
    Guess what? I love my kindle, in fact I don’t want to read a paperback anymore (after the first book I was converted. Who knew?)The Kindle is simply a better reading experience. (Mine is the simplest and does noting but display the black type–basically a light book.)

    The magic of the story is the WORDS not the paper. My kids were very into the electronic world but they are both readers. Growing up in the 60’s hardly any of my friends read for enjoyment, I did because my parents were readers. My son used to tell everyone he couldn’t wait to be 7 so he will be able to read on the computer. He still reads printed books and wants a kindle.

    I’ve never read a stone tablet, hand written scroll/book, but I am still an avid reader (I can read the classic books on Kindle for free!) If modern kids never touch a paper book but read on ereaders they will still be readers.

    I still think it will be sad if printed books disappear but then my Grandmother said she missed horses and radio shows.
    Nostalgia is one thing. Stopping progress is another. I do get the sadness. We can cheer ourselves up by being happy for the trees not felled to make paper, and the pollution not spewed by shipping trucks or readers driving to the bookstore.

    Kids who are nurtured with stories will become readers no matter what the stories are read on.
    Besides we will still need to buy a printed “Pat the Bunny.”

    Comment by klerosier — May 25, 2011 @ 2:43 pm | Reply

  2. Not much to say really, I agree with klerosier. I am certainly reading more AK than I did BK and if that’s true of everyone who buys the wee library machine, then so much the better. Don’t underestimate the power of the ability to change font size – that’s a major advantage over print books – as I’ve found since giving up my subs to several magazines where the print size became so small it had become uncomfortable to try and read them. No, wait, the print size is still the same! Aaaaaargh!

    Comment by Barry Dashwood — May 26, 2011 @ 11:32 am | Reply

  3. I don’t think printed books are going out anytime soon. My fear, however, is for the brick-and-mortar book stores. As much as I love grabbing a cup of coffee and reading the first chapter of a book I’m thinking about buying, the truth is I’m much more likely to hear about a book, look it up on Amazon, and, with my Amazon Prime 2-day free shipping, have it in my hands in no time flat.

    What I love about the Kindle (and Apple’s iBooks) is that I can carry so many more books with me than I could if I only had them in print. Also, ebooks are great for self-published authors like myself. Amazon lets you publish Kindle ebooks, completely free of charge. And you make pretty decent royalties on what you sell. With a minimum price of $1, I was able to self-publish two short stories and make them available to the general public.

    I think new doors of opportunity are opening. I also think we’ll find a way to keep the best parts of what we already have and weave them in with the new and better things that progress brings us. At least, I hope we will.

    Comment by Katie — June 1, 2011 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  4. The history of the printed word is facinating to me. From cave walls to early printing presses, civilization has depended upon the printed word to guide, educate, entertain and expose. Use of e-readers is inevitable and everything good about e-books I agree with plus saving paper, trees specifically, is good.
    My biggest problem is not the actuality but the long run…who will be in charge of what book gets published where? Will we have a book we love and then it gets “removed” due to content?
    No one knows what we are reading when we go to the library and check out a book. Not so with e-books. I suppose I sound paranoid but…

    And then there is the poverty issue. Now anyone can get a book. It’s called the library. It is and has always been free for use by the public. The e-book is limited to those folks who can afford to purchase the device and the book.

    Hopefully there is a happy medium, as Katie suggests.

    Comment by Susan Seely — September 30, 2011 @ 4:40 pm | Reply

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