Thursday, June 11, 2009

Future of Books - Library Perspective

I'll be upfront and honest here: I work in a library, I help out in a bookstore, and last week alone I bought six (yes, 6) books. I love having books laying all around! But, I want a new Kindle and I am willing to embrace eBooks.

So pairing a love of books with a love of technology, I like to think, has given me a reason to be particularly interested in one of the many debates that is raging in the book world: what is the future of book publishing?

In a report from "The Future of the Book." In the report, Keir Graff writes a good summary of an event he attended which he thinks could have been called the "End of Books as we know them, 101." I have to admit that I laughed when I read that! I've felt a lot of what is coming out of the industry is more in line with The-End-Is-Nigh sandwich board clad people preaching on the streets.

It is time for people, and libraries in particular, to come to terms with the changes that are going on. Electronic and web-based formats are here and consumers are currently defining how they are going to be best used. Does it do us any good to complain and claim that these formats will not survive? No. That is not for us to determine!

What libraries should be focusing on is figuring out how our patrons are using their Kindles and iPhones - then give them what they need to keep us being a valuable part in their educational pursuits.

The thing I liked about this report was Graff's comment about how having a book-editor and a web-manager on the panel doesn't do a good job at reflecting some of the more nuanced aspects of this question. It is up to the individual library to strike that balance within their own collection, that between the electronic resources and print.

Interesting implications - what role should libraries play in the widening gap between these two worlds?

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