“Tools, Not Toys,” and the Reasons We Read

As my Nook-program-launching colleague, Zoe P. Midler, wrote in her poignant post, Nooks are tools, not toys.  And yet, when any new device or “thing” is introduced, there’s always a novelty.  Students want to try it, just to have it, and it seems like a frenzy at first.  Our waiting list used to be 12-15 students long.

We are now 2.5 months into the Nook pilot, and there is no longer a waiting list for any of the Nook sets.  They have lost their novelty, and I find that students pass them over for new physical books that have a cover and description they can see and pick up.  The ebooks available listed in the online catalog, and yet it never fails that when I announce that “We just got new books yesterday, on the red cart,” at least one title gets checked out.  Perhaps I just need to advertise the Nooks more?

One that note, I’ve overheard some interesting comments from students:

  • The most popular Nook question I’ve gotten of late: “Which Nooks are the “Hunger Games” on?”  Hollywood can be such a great booktalker.
  • One boy in a literature circle asked if he *had* to get a Nook, or could we get another copy of the actual book for him to read instead.  He bought his own copy before we could inter-library loan one for him, and he returned the Nook.

To me, his comment just goes to show that ereaders aren’t for everyone.  Just like some folks will always like making physical scrapbook pages better than their digital counterparts, ereaders don’t fill everyone’s need to read, probably because we all read for different reasons.  And I think this is true of all ages, not just those of us who remember life before the Internet.  Again, tools, not toys.  That tool can be paper or an e-ink screen, but it’s still a vehicle to deliver content.

Personally, I still prefer solid physical books, even though I see the value of having a Nook for a lot of traveling.  For my lifestyle, which is overwhelmed and inundated by technology, I like the retreat that paper books offer to get lost in a story without the glow of a screen.  In fact, I sometimes find it takes a few moments to fully extract my consciousness from the story in the book and bring it back to reality. It’s like the feeling of coming back to the present after several minutes in mediation, though the sensation is more intense for me when I’m “come up for air” from reading.  I also think that feeling is a sign of an excellent book.

People may find that same retreat from technology differently, and for some, it’s found in paper books.  While so many bloggers predict the demise of paper books (like that hasn’t been predicted for decades…), I think there will always be some economic demand for them.

What I worry about more, is that our students are NOT learning how to know when to take that retreat.  Heck, I think a lot of us adults could use a reminder.  I can’t remember the last time I went a week without answering a text, phone call, or e-mail?  Can you?

One last note about the devices themselves:
It shouldn’t have, but it’s come as a surprise to me that some of the Nooks need charging before they are due back (in 12 cycle days).  I guess I expected better battery life between charges.  Any advice on mitigating the need to charge it is appreciated.  I’m starting to gather more data about which Nooks are most susceptible.

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Mrs. J in the Library

Collette J., or Mrs. J in the Library, is a full-time elementary teacher-librarian, blogger, and mama from Pennsylvania. She loves technology, books in any format, makerspaces, and all things Harry Potter. The information and opinions represented here are her own and are not the views and opinions of any business or organization.

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1 Response

  1. ZPM says:


    Thanks for the blog plug. I am eagerly following your reflections as I too am monitoring the “gimmick” factor. Pushing students to the Nook Playlists first, to select what they want to read, is helping sort the readers from the tire-kickers.