Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Comfort of Libraries and Print

Even I -- a librarian intimately familiar with the trend toward majority electronic library collections -- as a patron have caught myself counting on the warehouse function of libraries. I frequently depend on the fact that my libraries will have a printed copy of something that I particularly want to read.

In a way, libraries fit right into the access instead of ownership model that many people take for granted with film and music services. It's just that the access point for books was established hundreds of years ago and is commonly supported with public money. With this in mind, how can anyone say libraries are obsolete? Is it because the market for books is beginning to include e-books in addition to print? Thanks to vendors such as OverDrive, ebrary, and Wiley, libraries are in that game too. I have trouble swallowing the idea that the availability of e-books means the end of printed books.

Many people who work intimately with printed media find themselves in a love-hate relationship, in terms of occasionally feeling overwhelmed by sheer quantity. There are days when having every last bit accessible online, instead of having to deal with the physicality of it all, sounds very attractive. However, as much as I am dependent on technology for my basic productivity, I'm disappointed when there's a book I want to read closely and I only have access to it as an e-book. What's unclear is whether there are enough people like me for printed versions of books to continue to exist.
Added 11/12/12: Omitted here is mention of electronic reading devices -- when I'm disappointed with only having access to an e-book, I'm referring to browser-based academic e-books.

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