Debate Club: Are Books Dead?

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With the advent of e-readers such as the Kindle and devices like the Apple iPad, the humble paperback may seem a thing of the past. The question should be asked: Are books still relevant for a generation raised on laptops and cell phones? We went to the Canadian International School to ask students about their reading habits.


Duoen Yang, 16, Canada, has lived in Beijing for five years
James Weifan Lu, 16, Canada,has lived in Beijing for 6 years 
Natalie Wong, 17, Hong Kong, has lived in Beijing for 8 years
Shannon Wang, 14, USA, has lived in Beijing for 5 months

Do you still read books for fun?
Shannon: Yes! I like the Twilight series. I also enjoy Harry Potter and anything written by Emily Bronte. James: Yeah, I still read every day. I like to read short stories. I also like Hemingway. Natalie: I read comics everyday, does that count?
Duoen: The last book I read was Twilight. It was better than the movie!

Do you like buying books?
Natalie: I purchase my books in Hong Kong, because the choice of foreign books in Beijing is limited. Sometimes, I go to the bookstore in Wangfujing.
Shannon: In the States, I used to go to Barnes & Noble all the time. I find that there is definitely a limited number of choices here in Beijing. Duoen: Our school orders books from Scholastic but they’re at a lower reading level, so most of my books are from Canada.

Do you read the news online or in print?
Natalie: I set CNN as my homepage on my laptop. My parents also get printed newspapers – sometimes I go home and read them.
James: I read the news online. I don’t find printed newspapers necessary, because CNN offers updated news every second! 
Duoen: I read the news online. I read the most interesting articles featured on Yahoo.

Do you think print newspapers and magazines will still exist in ten years?
Duone: I think it will definitely be different, because it takes a lot of time for magazines to be printed and delivered. I can see the front page of the newspaper every time I go online.
James: I think magazines and newspapers will definitely decrease, but I think books will still exist. You can put information online, but things online often just disappear.
Natalie: Yes, I think printed resources will survive because there are readers like me who just enjoy having a printed book in our laps.
Do you trust the information you get online?
Shannon: Anyone can edit online sources – like Wikipedia – but one thing that magazines and the Internet have in common is many viewpoints on the same subject.
Natalie: I always double-check with a printed source.
James: I think when you’re researching, technology is more advantageous, because it’s faster than books. You have to flip through books. On the other hand, online, you just have to type in a word. And you can trust certain websites.
Duoen: I agree with James – books are not the most accurate. Information is always changing, but the information in books doesn’t change. The Internet is more up to date than books.

Do you think having instant access to information is a good thing?
James: I think we are getting busier, and people don’t have time to go through a book.
Duoen: Technology lets us absorb information faster, which makes us efficient. But if it’s too fast, it makes us lazy. Like the iPad – in a touch, you can find whatever you need, so it might make you lazy.
Shannon: I think what society needs to achieve right now is a balance. I think technology is a good thing – in terms of making things faster – but I also think we should have the time to sit down and look for things.

What do hardcopies of books offer that online materials can’t?
James: I think hardcopy books are a sign of our history.
Duoen: Yeah, hardcopy books are part of our history. Sometimes, online, the author isn’t even [cited]. A book is more evidential. You can see how the book got here, its company, its author. It’s a part of history, like an [artifact].
Shannon: Sometimes reading takes more time. When we’re on the Internet, we don’t know who’s expressing the idea. Books make the [voice of the]author clear; books have more to offer.
Natalie: I like reading – it makes me daydream. And I think hard copies are easier to share with my friends.


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