ONCE upon a time, to “put to bed” in publishing meant to make content ready for printing.
That expression may fade away, in the wake of digital-led revolutions overtaking print. Recently, major academic publisher Pearson announced it will update more frequently the digital rather than the physical versions of its 1,500 academic titles.
A company official said this “digital tipping point” responds to the preference of the “Netflix and Spotify generation… to rent not own” their textbooks, reported the BBC.
Digital books are easier on the pocket and on the shoulders. Few students want to invest in an imported academic reference in paper format, which can command four or five figures in pesos. Students prefer to download free PDF copies of books or share e-copies within their networks.
Given the time it takes to write a book, submit to a publisher, review, and finally print and distribute the title, it makes more sense to consult journals, many of which are already on digital portals, rather than physical books for the latest in research. Digital books also have other add-ons not found in print, such as assessments for feedback, videos for a more interactive immersion into the subject, and other links.
A hybrid approach works best for now, with students using the resources at hand and making their own innovations. Borrowing physical books from the library but avoiding extra weight in their knapsacks, many students take photos of needed pages, an act of virtual self-service that is an advance from paying a vendor for photocopies.
When a reference I needed was not yet ready for circulation, I made the most of the room-use rights given by the librarian by taking photos of the pages with the smart phone I am still learning to use.
A linear manner of comprehension, nurtured by a lifetime of reading paper books, means I read from start to finish, turning a page from the right to the left side of the spread, and then flipping back the pages to reread. Add to these the marking of passages, jotting on the book’s margins, sticking of notes in the pages, and writing in a notebook with ruled lines.
These traditional survival skills are displaced in the flurry of scrolling, swiping, and metalink-clicking involved in ebook-reading. Persevering in reading the images of pages in a smart phone screen or an electronic tablet, I effectively put myself “to bed.”
Soft snores hardly herald a revolution. It will do for now as I cling for life to the coat- tails of the digital juggernaut.
* First published in SunStar Cebu’s July 21, 2019 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”