The value of the printed book in the liquid modernity

I have to admit that I am feeling converted already to the idea of the book as a vehicle of academic communication, having got through five eighths of one. As a child I devoured books, but my academic career began when I was working in learning technology, at a time of massive, rapid technological change. No-one in that field seemed to be reading books, or even traditional journals – by the time they made it onto the shelf they were considered old hat if not obsolete. I recall trying to work through a new e-book by Curtis Bonk in 2011 (The World is Open) and feeling a) there was nothing new in there, and b) frustrated that I couldn’t comment at the bottom of the page.


The first few times I opened Illeris’ Transformative Learning and Identity I had to fight the urge to Facebook it (“look at me, I’m reading a book!!”). My lack of ability to maintain focus on one person’s extended argument was quite shocking. This mind map from the Australian organisation Learning Fundamentals has helped me to recognise why I was finding it hard to focus, and what I needed to do about it. For a start, I’ve removed the Facebook and Twitter apps from my phone, and take the bus into work twice a week so I have enforced ‘disconnected’ time to read.

Sharing is caring

Sharing is caring

Knowing that I was effectively paying £1.45 for 35 minutes of reading time, I was initially pretty good at just not looking at my phone when I was on the bus, but when I got fired up about something I still found it hard to keep it to myself (see right), so the apps had to go.

I was hugely skeptical at first about how an academic book could continue to interest and inspire from cover to cover, and I imagine plenty of authors do simply pad out their stuff in order to boost their publication profiles. Fortunately I’ve had a really good experience with this book, and am seeing the reason in engaging in depth with an extended argument, and in my tutor Paul’s advice – which was pretty much just to get on with getting to grips with the literature. My other tutor Jane advises a combination of skimming/gist, scanning/detail, extensive overview and close review in order to speed up the process, and I imagine there will be times when I will have to do that. It seems a shame though; the continual drip-feed of Illeris’ work over a number of weeks alongside the other EdD reading has highlighted so many points of relevance with everyday life, and has contributed to a range of conversations with those of my friends who like to discuss ideas.

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