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The Library Of The Future: Does The Trend In Electronic Reading Devices Mean The Inevitable Extinction Of Tangible Books?
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When you enter a library, any library, you the first thing you notice is the subdued atmosphere. The same usually holds for bookstores. Employees and volunteers at either usually speak in semi-hushed tones and seem sedate in their manner. Another thing you notice in a library is the faint smell of aged pages in classic books, published decades ago and still beautiful to read, that have been well-worn and well-read.

If I’m looking for a book I just want to read but not keep, I go to the Library. If I’m looking for a new revision of a book or a book I want to keep, I hit the bookstore. As I look for the types of books I want in either location, I find quite a variety of books of the same genre, within the same topic, or by the same author. I pick them from the shelf, heft them in my hands, check the table of contents for more specific information on subject, check the publishing date if appropriate, and make a decision to take it home for a few weeks, or buy it, or not.

Once I purchase a book and it’s mine, I really use the book. I earmark pages, put stars next to paragraphs or on pages I want to revisit, highlight words and phrases in parts of passages I will re-read so that all I will have to read the second time around are the highlighted words. (I have a knack for creating one sentence that gives me the page’s content with the highlighting.) I write in the margins and note a great thought or turn of phrase. I also flag pages with the flags sticking out and a word or two to indicate the topic I want easy access to.

In a Library, I am usually alone in the aisle with only an occasional passerby. Here, in the midst of the volumes and wooden shelves, in the quiet of the aisle, I find comfort. I find calmness. I can escape the hustle and bustle and the stresses awaiting me beyond the library walls. And I can lose myself in the inner delight of interacting with the books on a personal level. And I love studying the pictures and illustrations closely.

I love bookstores and libraries. I walked into our local Public Library the other day and the first thing I noticed was a bank of computers near the check-out counter. I know this has been going on for years - starting with book look-up software, then expanding to offering free internet service. There was a person sitting in front of each one that is a computer and no one at the book look-up pc.

It occurred to me then that this library may not be here someday. It may be replaced sooner than you think by any number of other establishments because the general public is hooked on online books they can read on Kindles, tablets, and notepads. They would rather hold a thin electronic gadget than a real book, especially if the actual book is thick like a Harry Potter novel.

I realize I haven’t had much experienced actually reading a book on one of the many devices out there. I know the pages look like they are actually turning and am sure there are sound effects that come with such actions. But I don’t know if you can flip many pages at once with your thumb like you can with a real book. I want to feel the paper flipping, hear the swishing sound it makes, and feel the slight breeze that emerges when I do. I’m a tactile person.

I know the convenience of using an electronic reading device (ERD) is attractive to those who read their books through an app. They like that their ERD is lightweight, it isn’t as cumbersome (although it may well be wider and not easy to fit in a pocket or pocketbook) as a real book, and the pages won’t be flipped about by the wind on the beach. And I think they take sun glare into account for easier reading. I have bad eyes and trying to read whole pages on an ERD feels harder on my eyes than the printed word in a real book.

With a real hardback or paperback book, you don’t have to worry about the battery dying right in the middle of a good part or having to wait to get back to it once the battery is recharged.

And I wonder what books the younger generation is reading through their apps. Are they books by Faust, D. H. Lawrence, or Mark Twain? Even if these classics are available online, do they know they’re there? Are they apt to look for them there? Do they even know who these authors are? How long will it take for library buildings to fade away to be replaced by modern, techy stores?

I own quite an extensive library of books myself. I have many categories, too. Some are horror novels, some are self-help, a wide variety of cookbooks for international foods, spiritual and motivational books, and lots of computer training books including those for Dummies, among others. These are a few of my categories. And I have lots of books that I am planning to swap out at a local used bookstore. Some books I will never give up though. One of my most treasured books is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, first US edition from the year the book was first published in England in 1897.

If society continues the trend of turning to electronic reading devices, what lies ahead? Will there be any libraries or offline bookstores a hundred years from now? If not, how would you get a signed copy of that new book you bought at the author’s book signing? How many classics and other gems and works of art (or words of art?) will be lost by then because too few people read them - if anyone by then? What’s the future fate of tangible books? And what’s the world coming to...the same governing state as the one in Fahrenheit 451? If you want to know what that is, go to your local library and ask for the book.


Street Talk

We share the love of books. We are blessed with a wonderful library here in my town of 1000 people. I agree that libraries are growing, and I hope this trend continues.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

I hope so but I find a lot of pc related and reference books at my local Libraries aren't very up to date. However, most books like novels never need to be updated and they do keep up with new novels pretty well. And they add the best and most recent to the shelves of children's books. I would just hate to see it all go extinct.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

I guess the only constant in our world is change. About 4 years ago an cyclopaedia salesman came knocking, and after he left I told my wife that his days were numbered . I am sure you have heard the news about Britannica stopping production. :(

  
  about 7 years ago
  

Yeah, I can understand why and they'll still be available online I'm sure - maybe they'll make you pay a fee for using them...LOL Actually I hope they do stick around in some way cuz I TRUST they're info better than what a site I don't recognize as reputable might tell me.

  
  about 7 years ago

Our libraries are growing. Probably the economy but I am not sure. I love paper because of the ability to flip through it, like you said, AnnMarie, as well as having dozens of color-coded bookmarks sticking out. And I love e-Books because of the ability to "search" for a word and find it in seconds. I also like the ability to adjust the print size when my eyes are tired, And then there are nights it is lovely to lay back with an Audio Book and listen to someone else read it to me. In my "perfect world" day dreams every book comes with a CD with the e-Book and the Audio both included in the envelope inside the back cover. For now I am stuck wishing I could buy all three... :-)

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

In an ideal world, Sherry. I have to admit that my eyes are pretty bad so I like large print. But I have no gadgets that I read books on with the exception of pdf's for training purposes mostly. Then I can enlarge the type. I also edit books on my pc so that helps there as well. But I love handling a real book otherwise. If I had to drive long distances on a regular basis, I would go for the audios, too.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
Joan S  

For some reason, I think there will still be books in a hundred years. Maybe I'm an optimist, but people still love books, and they will continue to love them, at least until everyone is brain washed into thinking digital is better. Books are an art form that can't be replicated on Kindle. Think about all the beautifully illustrated books from 100 years past, with illustrations by Tenniel, Daumier, N.C. Wyeth, Arthur Rackham. You need paper to see the beauty of that work. I so agree with your love of holding a book in your hands, and going to the library, the whole experience. Barnes and Noble is one of my favorite hangouts. That being said, everything has its place. When you travel a lot, and like to read en route, it's hard to lug around books, so a Kindle would come in handy. Great article!

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

People still love books now, Joan, but I fear the upcoming generations will lose the desire for the nuances of actually holding a real book. With all the electronic gadgets replacing them nowadays, I really do think it's a only a matter of time before true books are resigned to distinction with only the most worthy tomes given venerable honor - perhaps in library museums. Sherry's comment gives points to online or ERD reading and some valid points. They do come in handy. And I can see why ERD's would replace school books - have you ever seen a child's backpack filled with heavy course books? Very heavy. But I just hope future generations don't lose the love of a tangible book. They are already showing a lack of interest in antiques because they see no value in them.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

I think there are many of us who relate to the warmth of this article and have discussed it like others here have. I have to agree that books are just comforting to be amongst. If book stores are to disappear I hope that at least the likes of Amazon means they'll always be available somehow... I'll order them in and create my own library so sit amongst.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

I have mine in place. :) If I thought the libraries and bookstores with tangible volumes were closing down, I would spend every penny I have buying up every important book ever written and hoard them. Maybe they would be museum pieces someday.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

I have wondered about this, too, AnnMarie. If our libraries and bookstores become a thing of the past it will be tragic. They have a special magic that computers and ipads can't replace.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

It's one of those experiences that will be lost...the calm and quiet things in life are being deposed by a faster, louder pace all around us.

Reply
  about 7 years ago

How you have hit the nail on the head, I wonder of the future of books myself. Reading that in some countries schools are going to be introducing Ipads as the only form of book with all reference books loaded on them. What of the future, as you say the value of owning a book signed by an author, an original printing, all of this I'm afraid is heading out the door. Such a pity. I owned a wonderful library till a flood destroyed it all. One thing I remember when holidaying in USA was my visit to Barnes and Noble in NY city, it was an experience never to be forgotten, but is it nearing its end? I hope not.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
  

Me, too, Rob. It will be a sad day when this comes to pass.

Reply
  about 7 years ago
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