I am the resident 20something, and coincidentally, the youngest member of the Library Marketing team here at Harper. I worked in a library in high school, and from youth, I’ve been a devotee of stacks, musty books, microfiche, book carts…the classic trappings of the library world. But there’s so much more to it nowadays. I’ve been back to my old hometown library, Patchogue Medford Library, and after a mere 7 years, it’s barely recognizable.
With the increasing digitization of our world, the way we read is changing on a fundamental level. And it’s left many of us—myself included—with mixed feelings. Kevin Kelly, of Wired Magazine, spoke glowingly of a shift from ownership to access, of sharing increasing the value of the books we love. Eli Neiburger put a different spin on it, succinctly stating, “Libraries are screwed.”
It’s overwhelming sometimes, trying to gain perspective on concrete things, as well as the more ephemeral implications of ebooks, like the way a “read” changes when the format is electronic. In a wonderful panel on Readers Advisory, Neal Wyatt, Duncan Smith, and Katie Dunneback discussed the changing “appeal” of a book in digital form. The perks to reading on an ereader are, when reversed, also its detractions. For instance, if you interrupt your reading to click on a live link in the text, aren’t you disrupting a pace that was previously determined by the author? Does the experience become less “private,” less “personal,” as it becomes more interactive? I have a lot of questions, and I know you do too.
My biggest question: what can we, as publishers, do better when it comes to ebooks and libraries? Where do you stand in the digital divide?
At the end of the day, information matters—in any form, whether it’s an ebook or print. Suffice it to say, Library Journal’s Ebook Summit was helpful on many levels. We’d love to hear what you think in the comments.