School’s Kindle conversion sparks controversy

Cushing Academy, a private boarding school in Ashburnham, Mass., last summer began getting rid of most of its library’s books. In their place: a fully digital collection. Library watchers say it could be the first school library, public or private, to forsake ink and paper in favor of eBooks, USA Today reports. It also represents the first time a school has placed its students’ intellectual lives so fully into the hands of a few online publishers and makers of electronic devices. In the past few years, school officials explain, the old library was in danger of becoming a relic. Its 20,000-book collection was barely used. So now, students use a laptop computer (handed out to students on financial aid) or a library PC to access the 13 databases to which Cushing now subscribes. Reading David Copperfield in English class? A librarian will gladly download it onto one of 65 Kindle handheld electronic book readers from, which circulate like library books. Naturally, the blogosphere flipped. After reading about the plan last month, bloggers and commenters worldwide have called headmaster Jim Tracy a snob, a spendthrift, and a book burner–and even compared him to Adolf Hitler. That’s all very curious when you meet Tracy, a soft-spoken, painfully polite guy who’s a bit bewildered that so few people get it: His tiny school’s collection is growing from 20,000 books to millions…

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