Kindles at camp?

Camps have traditionally banned gadgets. In the woods, iPods and cell phones are illegal contraband, banished along with fireworks and drugs. Life at camp, many argue, should hearken back to a simpler time: when a game of “Angry Birds” involved dodging bird poop and “conversation” meant a fireside face-to-face rather than thumbed pseudowords at 140 characters or less.

Camps therefore confiscate kids’ electronics. But books have always been welcome. Counselors praise the kid who spends his rest hour nose-deep in a novel. Camp brochures highlight the iconic image of a teenager flopped beneath a tree, flipping through a book. Sure, Harry Potter can distract from camp life just as surely as a Gameboy, but only the gizmo gets the boot.

But the line between books and gadgets continues to blur as digital reading goes mainstream. Last summer, Amazon sold more eBooks than hardcovers for the very first time. Low prices have contributed to this growth; eBooks cost less than their print counterparts, and the Kindle’s price may hit $0 by year’s end.

Within a decade or two, devices like the Kindle and the iPad seem destined to dethrone the printed book for good. If eReaders become ubiquitous, can camp directors realistically demand that kids leave them at home? How can camps encourage literacy while still offering a sanctuary from digital distraction?