Is This the Last Chapter for Paperbacks?

Last week, book superstore Borders filed for bankruptcy and stated that it will be closing more than 200 stores, due to declining sales. This announcement comes on the heels of last month’s report that Kindle book sales overtook paperback sales on – something that came as no surprise to publishing and technology industry analysts, but was quite a shock to me.

When I was a child, I would hide books in my clothes so that I could excuse myself from class to go sit on the bathroom floor and read for 10 minutes. So, as a lifelong book lover, it seems unfathomable to me that anyone would choose an e-book over a hard copy. And many of my book-loving colleagues at Linda Costa Communications Group  agree. We’ve had several conversations about the joys of a full bookshelf and a few of us even freely swap books, because we feel that great literature is meant to be shared. But, apparently, we’re in the minority.

For years, magazines and newspapers have been adjusting their business models to accommodate consumers’ shifting interest to reading publications in a digital format; our own Orlando Sentinel recently launched a comprehensive mobile app that enables readers to grab their news on the go. And, last week, Apple announced that publication apps will be forced to adopt a new subscription model – another sign that print publications are being squeezed out. Clearly, times are a-changin’ and it won’t be long before we don’t run to an airport kiosk to grab the latest copy of Sports Illustrated or the newest New York Times best seller.

But, in the meantime, I’m holding on tight to my paperback books.

What about you? Do you prefer e-books or do you like to read your books the “old fashioned” way?

Has Penmanship Been Written off by Thumb-centric Youth?

In a world where a text message is an acceptable method to ask for a date and e-mails are second nature, where does that leave the fading art of penmanship?

We send 294 billion e-mails and nearly five billion text messages every day. For me, the most handwriting I do has been reduced to quick Post-it note reminders and shopping lists. American kids spend an average of almost eight hours per day looking at a screen of some kind, and they are used to typing and texting to communicate. So what’s the point of even teaching good penmanship if kids don’t (and won’t) put it to practice anymore? Maybe there isn’t one. Florida is among 41 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which does not require cursive to be taught in the classroom.

There is evidence that handwriting – print or cursive – helps improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development. According to Steve Graham, a literacy expert at Vanderbilt University, there is reason for businesspeople to take pride in their handwriting. He believes that people form negative judgments about your credibility based on poor handwriting.

According to Graham, legibility tends to peak around fourth grade. With schools trying to incorporate more computers into classrooms – some even using iPad technology – does practicing good penmanship bring value and impact students’ development? One fourth grader, still struggling to learn cursive, has a practical understanding of handwriting – “Maybe sometimes if you’re like stranded on an island or something, then you’ll know how to write.”

While handwritten communication is being viewed as a thing of that past by the younger generations who are glued to keyboards, it still holds value in the “real world.”

What do you think? Should cursive writing be totally phased out of schools’ curriculum? Or, do you think it’s a practical necessity that every child should learn whether they use it or not?