A post in which I get all riled up. For probably no good reason.

(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?

 

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9 Responses to A post in which I get all riled up. For probably no good reason.

  1. Donna Young says:

    I can’t quite wrap my head around an e-reader library. Sounds like a set-up with a few computers, a place where the e-readers are stored, and some chairs with nice lighting to sit and read. More a glorified living room than a library.

    Nope, the more I think about it, the less I like it. Libraries are for paperbacks, magazines and hardback books. Also for reference books (i.e., encyclopedias) and books on CD. Call me old, but that’s the way I feel about it.

  2. Would you even need a building dedicated to ebooks? Seems like having an entire building dedicated to Netflix, silly.
    While I love my e-reader, I realize there is a very real purpose to very real books and I’ll have my pitchfork ready if someone stokes a fire.

    • bunkersdown says:

      I could see a kiosk type apparatus (sort of like a Red-box thingy) where you could download e-books. Especially at airports or train stations. It would be much cheaper and easier to mass produce. We should totally invent this and get lots of money.

  3. Lisa says:

    I agree with you. My two oldest girls (8 & 10) each have a Nook and it was hard for me to swallow. I frequently buy them actual books because I want them to know what it feels like to turn the pages, smell the ink, etc. We cannot ignore technology, but we have to find a balance and a no-book library is NOT balanced!

  4. Just Shireen says:

    YES. A THOUSAND TIMES YES.

  5. When we moved to Abu Dhabi almost two years ago, I had to confront my distaste for e-readers, for me & my kids who are voracious readers. To get English-language books here isn’t necessarily difficult but the choice is limited and it means driving to the bookstore b/c there is NO library. Zippo. Zero. Zilch. Plans are reportedly in the works but…so we “curl up” with e-readers. And my kids are young enough that they don’t seem to care–they’ll read in any version and I guess that’s okay (she says doubtfully). But it’s just not quite so cute a picture to see your little habibi nestled in an armchair with his…screen in front of him. Even if the screen is a book & not a video game.
    Deep sigh and head shaking….

    • bunkersdown says:

      But everyone is READING and that is what is most important. However, I so sad for your lack of an English language library. Libraries enables you to read a little fluff, that you don’t want to spend actual money on.

  6. Sarah says:

    I absolutely agree with you 110%!

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