Everyone who owns a Kindle, a Nook, or some sort of e-reader, raise your hand. Quite a few of us read on a device; I myself have a Kindle – actually two, but that’s a different story – and I enjoy reading on it. I can enlarge the font size, which is becoming more important to me as I age. I can load a big, thick book on my Kindle and not worry about my poor fingers and wrists bearing the weight of a 1,000 page tome. I can collect a lot of books, and I don’t have to dust the bookshelves, or the piles on the floor. I can also have my Kindle read aloud to me if I want to multi-task, or spend time on my treadmill. I can also acquire a book instantly, no driving to a bookstore or the library, or waiting for it to arrive in the mail.
Even though I enjoy the benefits of my Kindle, I do still read paper books. I prefer flipping back and forth in a book rather than on my Kindle; if a book has a map, or a genealogical chart, or a glossary that I want to refer to while I read, I find it’s easier when I’m reading a paper book. Plus, I never have to charge a book. It’s always ready, unlike my Kindle which can need to be charged at inopportune moments. I do have to say that my old-school Kindle does have a nice long battery life – but still.
I’ve had people ask me if I think libraries will become obsolete, as everyone turns to e-books. I think it’s normal to think that paper books will go the way of clay tablets and parchment scrolls, but honestly, we’re not that close yet. Not every book is available in e-book format. Devices require a steady source of electricity, and even though our society does provide that—most of the time—we have all seen those doomsday films where the grid is taken out – and quite easily at that.
So will libraries become obsolete? I don’t think so. If librarians are good at anything, we are good at adapting to new technologies. We are good at identifying upcoming trends, and providing services to our patrons. The only constraints we face are budgetary.
For instance, you can check out e-books and e-audiobooks from the library. You can go to our web page, click on Services, and follow the instructions there to borrow e-books for your device. We are always available by phone or in person to help you get your e-reader set up if you need us. We provide as wide a selection as possible, but I have to say that publishers do not make it easy or affordable for libraries to purchase and then loan out e-books. That bestseller that you bought for $12.99 at Amazon? It will cost us between $80 and $100. Certain publishers won’t sell to libraries at all. Harper Collins will sell to us, but after the e-book is borrowed 26 times, we have to purchase it again. Their reasoning is that paper books wear out and are repurchased, so we should have to do the same with e-books. Where they got the number 26, I’ll never know.
In the end, I really don’t expect paper books to disappear any time soon. We can enjoy both, which to me is truly the best of both worlds.