Remember that public space that we used to travel to when we were kids? You know, a library. It’s where physical books lined an endless sea of wooden and metal shelves, and a librarian would help you sort through the card catalog to find what you were looking for.
Well, the card catalog has gone electronic and so has the process of checking out books. Even the books themselves are slowly disappearing. And now there’s the possibility of a virtual library where you can simply download ebooks to your Nook, Kindle or smart phone.
It seems completely harmless. But it could do permanent damage to the library system and San Francisco’s 369,914 patrons.
Libraries are gearing up to begin – if they have not already – renting ereaders to their patrons. Already, due to the high demand for this type of technology, libraries are slowly housing fewer physical books and are compensating by offering them as downloads.
Currently there are 28 public libraries within the city of San Francisco not counting specialty libraries, or the one at SF State. All of them have shiny new self-check-out systems and offer e-books for rentals through the eLibrary which offers hundreds of titles available to download onto a Kindle.
With an electronic library, like the one online retailer Amazon has been planning, what’s to keep people from just logging in to their account at home and queuing up “The Hunger Games” and the latest Anita Blake novel? Why even bother with an eLibrary offered by the local public library?
Amazon’s venture into creating an electronic library for books isn’t new. The idea has been tossed around like a hacky sack lately, going from Amazon to book publisher to author and back around again. However, it has yet to turn into a tangible idea for fear from publishers about what that would mean to the current world of books.
Traveling to a library to browse through the stacks would become obsolete. People would be able to pick what they want when they want it.
Library books are a novelty of our past. The time when we would be giddy children receiving our first library cards and checking out a book are long gone. A shelf that we could always rely on for help with those science reports and those pesky term papers for college has changed.
Books offer a more intimate experience when diving into new adventures, while electronic versions will be take some of those elements away.
And not only will they take away from the reading of books, but it will also take away from the atmosphere and experience you get when going to a library, browsing the shelves and getting lost and sidetracked in the stacks.
Books are tangible, you can smell them – crisp and fresh when they’re new, slightly musky when they are old – and you can fold the spine back on a paperback. This will be lost when archives of books, new and old, are digitized for e-readers.
It’s saddening to see technology slowly wiping out library books. Our children will not know what a library full of books looks like.