Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ebooks to end libraries?

Apparently, libraries are going to go out of business. Didn't you here? The Interweb has books now!

Not impressed? Don't think the sky is falling? Don't think the gotterdammerung of the library is nigh? Yeah, me neither.

Granted, I'm a bit biased. I work at a library; I'd like to continue to have a job. And you want to hear a funny story? My library system has ebook lending (and electronic downloads for audiobooks) now. For free! It works with the Kindle now as well (originally it didn't). You just need a computer, the Internet, and a library card (don't worry, you didn't set your PIN. We did. And you just call it a PIN. Not PIN Number. The "n" in PIN stands for "number"). Interesting, that an institution dedicated to the gathering, preservation, and proliferation of knowledge does crazy things like stick with the times.

Remember back in 1977 when Ken Olsen said "There is no reason for an individual to have a computer in his home." (story about it here on Snopes.com)? Remember back in like, the 50's, when robots were going to make everybody's lives easier and we wouldn't really have to work anymore? Also didn't happen, though robots do many things. Seems kind of like similar statements, to me. "In two years, there will be no more libraries." I will not cite my source for this one. I heard it by word of mouth anyway. Suffice to say, I disagree.

I have a confession. I don't much like ebooks. I'll screw around on the Internet all day, read articles, and blogs, and short stories. But when I want to read a book? I turn away from the screens and hold up something with a cover and physical pages. Do I like what ebooks can do, so far as being readily available, easily accessible, and cheap as hell? Yes, I do. I also like that many authors can just strike out and do it themselves, and have, through Amazon (using CreatSpace) and things of that nature. But really, I'm waiting for Microsoft or Apple to come out with a computer printer version of WonkaVision, where I can see something online that I want, order it, and have a machine spit it out for me.

Ah well. Maybe when our robot overlords take over the world, it'll happen.


  1. I've actually been hearing the opposite; that e-book lending has jump-started a renewed interest in libraries. All the gloom-and-doom came before anyone had a chance to measure real impact, as so often seems to happen. Much like how every Kindle owner I spoke to over the course of the first couple months was like "BOOKS, THROW 'EM AWAY THEY ARE FINISHED!" Turns out not.

  2. I'm happy to hear that! I mean, obviously I'm a bit biased, but book people like books. Period. Granted, the economy is helping libraries as well (typically, we have a slowdown at my library after Thanksgiving until the day after Christmas. That did not happen this year.)