Print Watch – Traditional book value hard to shake
School libraries may have started to jump on the e-book revolution bandwagon, but there will continue to be a valuable place for traditional books in primary and secondary education facilities, according to the nation’s School Libraries Association executive officer.
A report published in one of Australia’s leading newspapers this week suggested that traditional books are on the way out of school libraries despite increased federal funding for library services.
However, according to Australian School Library Association (ASLA) executive officer, Karen Bonanno (pictured), the article neglected to take into account the vast majority of schools in which students do not have comprehensive access to online content via mobile devices. Most schools, says Bonanno, will continue to depend on libraries with traditional books into the future.
The article, featured in The Australian newspaper on 30 May, named two schools that had cleared out their stocks of traditional books in favour of investing in online resources for their students. The schools featured were Adelaide’s Henley High School, and Queensland’s Varsity College.
These schools have both found that student book borrowing volumes had dwindled and many students were accessing reference information online while at school. In light of this trend the schools chose to turn their focus on online resources through school-wide WiFi.
While Bonanno concedes the transition to online resources is part of the inexorable march forward for technology, the requirement for reliable trustworthy traditionally printed books will remain essential to most schools.
“In one or two years mobile devices and tablets will become more prominent in education, and in that context there will be this transition phase libraries will go through,” says Bonanno. “But, they will not totally move away from books. They will still be valuable in providing rich content for the curriculum.
“Not every student will have access to these [digital] devices, and there will still be a need to provide front-base resources. There’s going to be a need for high quality resources, more so than what you’d find on the internet,” she says.
The report in the Australian comes in the same week as an announcement by Murdoch Books that it will be laying off 26 people as part of its shift towards more cooking e-books to increase online sales.
The publisher has struggled over the past year with its book sales falling by more than 20 per cent. This drop has been partially due to the collapse of REDgroup Retail, which saw the demise of Angus & Robertson and Borders in Australia, but has also been impacted by a glut of cooking titles being produced off the back of TV’s Masterchef success.
Despite this clear move towards e-books in favour of traditional books, many printed titles are still performing very well, including Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals.
It seems the intrinsic value of traditional books is proving difficult to stamp out. As Bonanno says, “just because books are not borrowed doesn’t mean the material is not valued.”