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Old 08-08-2010, 01:30 AM   #1
6charlong
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The Future, Libraries and eBooks

An article in Newsweek describes how libraries and paperbacks brought reading to the people then laments the possible death of libraries and paperbacks with the arrival of eBooks.

http://www.newsweek.com/2010/08/05/f...libraries.html

Newsweek surprised me with its "book" nostalgia. I think the editors overlooked what eBook readers can be when they write:

Quote:
Something of the same argument might be made for books, or for the tactile pleasure of holding and reading a well-made book. At its simplest, a book is a tool, or an information-delivery system, if you will, and it does what it does supremely well. To conceive of a world without physical books is to conceive of a world somehow diminished.
For me novels are works of art and although I agree with the sentiment that they should be treasured and enjoyed in and of themselves, I know that eBooks do not have to exclude the tactile pleasure of holding a book or the visual delight of reading a well-made one.

I prefer buying my book reader devices without a cover. There are beautiful covers available for every taste. My own preference is the Oberon covers, and I always have trouble deciding which design to get. (At the price of the new Kindle, I might end up with more than one.) Indeed, there are other cover makers: there are smooth leather covers and cloth ones too in every color of the rainbow. There are skins and sleeves in incredible variety: there is no reason not to have a book reader customized to the owner's sense of style, something to be proud of and even to treasure. And that brings us to the condition of the books inside.

Frankly, while there are some beautifully formatted eBooks there are also too many poorly made ones. Some publishers seem to think that their only role in the process is to guard the copyrights and maybe check the author's spelling, but some of the eBooks we've seen made me doubt the editor bothered to run a spell check much less had a chance to display a sense of style when formatting the eBooks they sell. In fairness, the quality of pBooks seems to be suffering lately too.

There are a few exceptional eBooks and I think those of us who use vendors like Amazon or B&N to buy our books ought to use the customer remarks section to compliment a book that is well set and criticize those that are done badly.

The publishers seem to be at odds-and-ends over how to approach the change to eBooks. I think that the answer for publishers is to measure up to the best of what they have always done. Treat these books as the works of art that they are. As suggested by the Newsweek article, what we do now will be plain to see for future generations. Let's insist on beautiful books.
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Old 08-08-2010, 04:19 AM   #2
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I don't use public libraries, because I'd rather buy. I do support them, though, and I'd like to see them continue to serve those who can't afford e-readers. They need libraries the most. If libraries can afford loaner e-readers, great. If not, print is still needed to serve those without an alternative source for books. That's just practicality, not nostalgia.

Added, for nostalgia angle:

Just taking a long look around my book room now, I think my books are beautiful. They're mostly paperbacks, out of choice. I used to have access to loads of free and cheap books through work, and always opted for paperback, even when hardbacks were available for free. Beauty is subjective. I'd also see beauty in the room, largely emptied of print books, if most were digitized.

I think the writer tries to define beauty for others, as seen through his eyes. I'm curious about how old he is. Just my perspective, of course: The older I get, the more stuff I've accumulated. I like my stuff, but I can imagine getting rid of most of it and streamlining. Maybe that's a family trait. My Grandfather, heading into his 80s, widowed and scaled down to a one-bedroom apartment, started urging people to take whatever they wanted. He saw less and less need for stuff. What he valued was more time with family and friends.

Last edited by Maggie Leung; 08-08-2010 at 06:22 AM.
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Old 08-08-2010, 06:59 AM   #3
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The trouble is, libraries have been de-emphasizing books for probably at least 20 years. Movies (especially movies), video games, providing internet access, all are seemingly more important.

And what books they do carry, are sort of how Blockbuster carries movies. If you want the most popular titles, bestsellers, they buy 100s of copies (and you still have to wait). But want something else, forget it. When books get old, they get thrown out.
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:06 PM   #4
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Libraries were never meant to be archives. At least not so far as I was ever aware...
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Old 08-08-2010, 09:45 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Ravensknight View Post
Libraries were never meant to be archives. At least not so far as I was ever aware...
Actually that is the major function of libraries ever since the great library at Alexandria. For most of the history of literacy libraries WERE archives. The whole point was to provide a repository of knowledge, art and information that could not be easily found elsewhere.

The thing is, those little public libraries -- the ones that provide videos and internet access and throw out old books -- are really just public service centers of the larger library system. They tend to emphasize popular books in the first place. They never had extensive collections for scholarship or anything like that. BUT....

Those libraries serve as a public location for inter-library loan and all the other functions that their customers may get from the larger library system. And the really bad thing is that while people will rally around their little library which a small collection of only popular books, they tend to ignore the bigger libraries in the background that supply these little ones with services.

So the state and county collections - the REAL collections - are decimated by politicians looking for some place to cut while the little service centers are left to become just community centers with a very limited number of books.

But back on point - libraries will exist in future, but they will change. The need for safe public access to hardback books for children and the general public won't go away, nor will the need for archives. We'll see more and more use of internet. (Just as in the old days there were rows and rows of desks for microfiche readers - now replaced by computers.)

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Old 08-08-2010, 09:53 PM   #6
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I agree that books are special. I mourn the passing of the time when all books were illuminated with lovely hand-lettered script. Why, or why, can't we have that again. Oh, right, time moves on. It do, don't it.

So, now, I can access a million books from my chair. Yep, time moves on.
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Old 08-08-2010, 10:48 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by patrickt View Post
I agree that books are special. I mourn the passing of the time when all books were illuminated with lovely hand-lettered script. Why, or why, can't we have that again. Oh, right, time moves on. It do, don't it.

So, now, I can access a million books from my chair. Yep, time moves on.
Actually, that is the kind of direction that paper books are likely to go in - deluxe limited editions will likely always have a market. (And they say handmade books are making a comeback - just as they did a century ago during the Arts and Crafts period.)

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Old 08-09-2010, 11:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DaringNovelist View Post
Actually, that is the kind of direction that paper books are likely to go in - deluxe limited editions will likely always have a market. (And they say handmade books are making a comeback - just as they did a century ago during the Arts and Crafts period.)

Camille

Funny, that's just what I've been thinking. Instead of mass marketing paper books, they'll make limited editions, really nice ones and those will be aimed at the book collectors. Though not necessarily in every genre... can't quite see it for the self-help books or current fad diet book o' the week, LOL!

I'm thinking Star Trek, where things like paper books or a pair of real glasses were collector treasures.

At any rate, will be interesting times!

I definitely like the feel of a real book, and own some signed copies. Just don't have the space for too many. I see my paper books as nice stand-ins for when the battery needs charging on my nook.
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