(A major rant follows. You’ve been warned.)
I saw this article on the internet the other day and it scared me senseless. An entire public library without any physical, tangible books on the shelves? Only e-books available for downloading? Has the world gone insane?
This whole premise is faulty on many levels. Don’t get me wrong- I think there is plenty of room in every library for e-books. In fact, there should be substantial room, because e-readers have some great benefits. But I do not now, nor ever will believe that they should hold a monopoly.
My first argument is simple: ebook readers are still not affordable for the entire public. So how can you call it a “public” library when it doesn’t benefit everyone? Sure, they offer some e-readers you can use while at the library, but you can’t take them home and there’s only a certain number of them. Which means people are limited to when they are able to enjoy a ‘book.’
To me, reading is the great equalizer. History has shown that a person, by reading, is able to improve their education and increase their knowledge. Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie: these are all people who raised themselves up because they were self-educated. This is the miracle and power of books.
So to restrict reading access to the class of people who could benefit the most from it, feels incredibly wrong and feudal and ridiculous.
Here’s my second argument: E-readers are the most unreliable form of reading. They are easily broken and run out of batteries. If you drop an e-reader you must spend additional money and time to get it fixed, leaving you without reading material. (Which, if you must know, is my equivalent of Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.) If you drop a book, however, you merely need to find what page you were on.
Additionally, with electronic readers, something could go wrong on the library’s end. Servers can go down, the internet can crash, leaving someone who relied on that system entirely, much too vulnerable for my taste.
We need easy access to books, to the knowledge that is inside of them. To have only one way to acquire these books, and such a delicate one at that, feels foolhardy.
(At this point in my post, gentle reader, you are probably saying to yourself, “For crying out loud crazy woman, we’re only talking about one library. And they’re only books.”
Let me say immediately, you’re right. I’m totally overreacting. Secondly, how dare you say the phrase ‘only books.’ )
Maybe I read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury too often in junior high (this is probably true, since every time I’ve moved to a new house I immediately find where I could hide my books if there was ever a country wide mass book burning.) But there is something comforting and reassuring about an actual, physical collection of writing and knowledge. Something I can hold in my hand whenever I want, under any circumstances I happen to find myself in.
Call me old fashioned, call me technologically unsavvy (is there such a word?), but a public library stocked solely with e-books feels like a bad idea.
What do you think?