(This post builds a bit on Luke's post on print in a digital age.)
I've been thinking a bit about my students' reading habits (which are pretty much non-existent). It's been such a challenge to get them to read for LIB 200, and I've packed the syllabus with graphic novels and short essays (one-page handouts) that build on film excerpts (documentary and YouTube clips).
I realized that in our basic writing classes, students can and often do often leave the reading for the day of class. (In group work, they can and do catch up.) But you can't do that with a longer text. My course ends with a few chapters of Frankenstein (with film clips from the Kenneth Branagh adaptation). Originally, I had planned to tackle the whole novel. Now it's a few chapters.
I was just thinking of how convenient and useful print is for class discussions. If we rely on digital versions of texts, until students have iPads or nooks or Kindles or whatever, they wouldn't be able to use these digital version for the midterm or final. There is something valuable about print (such as consistent pagination). How would I choose selected chapters of a novel or novella using an e-text? The pagination is entirely different.
A bright idea: If I were in charge of digital strategy at Blackboard, I would create a reliable e-book platform that would deliver electronic texts / textbooks to web browsers, smartphones, iPhones, iPads and even Kindles in a consistent way. Then no matter what flavor of e-reader, students could at least agree on what the text is for class.... It's so clear the e-book market is fragmenting--even with e-textbooks, content cannot be shared across different 'mobile platforms'.... And this trend isn't going to get any better as different computer manufacturers (yes, that's you Steve Jobs) strive to keep the other team's content off their devices. Whatever happened to open standards?
Yet there's hope for print. In my ENG 102, my students were reading a graphic novel (manga edition) of Shakespeare's The Tempest. In group work the other day, they were discussing sections from Act III--and there was some really excellent close reading going on. And flipping pages! And pointing at the way characters were drawn. Maybe graphic novels will save close reading!... I can't imagine this kind of conversation going on with a small-footprint device, which is really only viewable by a single reader/user....
So I still prefer print for teaching--as they say in Avenue Q, "For now"....