Goodbye, Books?

A school in Massachusetts has gotten rid of most of its library books. Now the collection is online. School leaders say it's the way of the future.

Nov 20, 2009 | By Jaime Joyce

Cushing Academy used to have 20,000 books in its library. But over the summer, this small Massachusetts high school began to replace printed books with electronic books, or e-books. Why? "The school wanted to put its focus on 21st-century learning," Tom Corbett, the library's executive director, told TFK. Few students were using library books to do their school assignments. Most did their research online. Transforming the library seemed like the best way to meet students' needs. Without a print collection to care for, Corbett says librarians can now concentrate on helping students use the online collection in new and better ways. They can also work with teachers to bring technology into the classroom.

More Books, More Reading

Teacher Nancy Boyle says her students still enjoy regular books. But they're also testing out the Kindle, an electronic reader (see "Meet an E-Reader"). So far, it's been a success. "It's great," Boyle told TFK. "The kids are reading more."

Sixteen-year-old Meghan Chenausky was skeptical at first. "I love the feeling of books," she told TFK. "I really thought I was going to be missing out when I started using a Kindle. But now I absolutely love using it. It's so convenient. You can have so many books right at your fingertips."

Meet an E-Reader

Can your backpack fit 1,500 books? An e-reader can. Most e-readers are pencil-thin and weigh less than a pound. They can download an e-book in 60 seconds. Don't understand the meaning of a word? Click on it to get the definition. Is the print too small? An e-reader can adjust the size.

E-readers aren't cheap, but it costs the school just $5 or $10 to download an e-book on as many as six e-readers. "Now, students have access to a million titles," Corbett says.

Still, regular books have one big advantage over e-readers: They don't use electricity. E-readers have to be charged, like cell phones.