On the way out of work today, I noticed a small magazine -- mostly ads -- geared towards college students. One small column said that a student will spend approximately $3,000 on textbooks during their college years. It went on to tell us what else the money could be used for -- a down payment on a car, a trip to Europe, a flat-screen TV. The column went on to advocate for E-readers as a cheaper alternative.
I thought about this on the way home. First, $3,000 over four years is not a lot of money. Granted all textbooks are not of equal quality -- and many students won't pick up them up again after the class ends -- but books to me have more value, potentially life long value, than a car payment or a trip. I guess I just don't understand the comparison.
Second, I love books. I still have books from college that not only have moved with me through the years, but also have followed through all my years living abroad. They have notes in the margins, which I periodically look back on, and these scribbles remind me how my thinking has grown and changed as my experiences have accumulated. I have shared my books with colleagues and friends, both in the US and abroad, and have had books given to me by people from other countries that I still cherish.
While I was in Peace Corps in Liberia, where I didn't even have electricity for two years, it was a common practice that books sent to us were put in our main office library when we finished them. Then each time we traveled to Monrovia, the first stop for most of us was to the "library" to drop off our finished books and happily re-fill our packs with new books for those long hours of village life, where reading by candle light was a huge treat.
I understood the value of having a reader. I even have one. It does make travel easier -- you can carry a lot of novels in a case that fits easily in your briefcase. But, you cannot make notes in the margin, you cannot go back and re-think your assumptions and thoughts, and you cannot share them with others. For college students, who are just starting to explore their worlds and potential futures, books -- the old fashioned kind have value.