E-books. Everywhere I turn I’m hearing about them. The library world is positively overwrought about the entire concept. There are dire predictions that they will bring about the end of books and libraries. Others say they are a passing fad. Still others think they represent the passing of brick and mortar library buildings and will signal a new virtual library concept to replace what we know and love today.
Those who embrace the ebook concept are faced with a myriad of e-readers and a variety of formats. Many of the formats work across most of the ereaders currently on the market, but there are some proprietary ones, like Kindle. Kindle’s format initially only worked on a Kindle, though now you can get an “app” for multipurpose devices like phones, ipads, and computers. But Kindle ebooks will still not work on other ereaders, like the Nook or Sony or the Kobo, or BeBook, or Google’s iRiver. Some people have decided that the ereader itself is a passing fad and that in the near future they will go the way of the laser disc player and disappear completely, because ebooks will be viewed only on those multipurpose platforms.
On the brighter side, there are many sites, such as Project Gutenberg, that have public domain ebooks available for free. You still need a device of some kind, but just about any kind of ereader can use these.
Meanwhile, libraries are trying to figure out which way to go with this. Do we embrace the ebook, or build virtual walls around our real books and prepare to man the fortifications? If we welcome ebooks into our temples of the written word, how best do we share them? How do we make them available to our patrons? Do we expect those who come to us for ebooks to have their own devices to read them? Do we lend ereaders with the ebooks? Add to this that there are publishers who won’t allow libraries to lend their e-books at all, publishers that have arbitrary rules about how many times and in what manner an ebook can be lent, and publishers who make some books available only as ebooks so that a library can’t provide a physical copy of the book, and may not be able to provide the virtual one. And, of course, none of this is free, and the budgets of libraries, like everyone else these days, are not exactly fat. So it comes down to the question, if we buy ebooks what do we give up to pay for them?
So what is a library to do? No really – we want to know, what do we do? We are open to suggestions. Feel free to comment on this blog. Or our Facebook page. Or twitter. And “stay tuned” for future announcements, because our library has something in the works, and we’ll be telling you more about it in the upcoming weeks. And while you are waiting, check out the ebooks currently available to library users through NCLIVE.
Oh – and as for me – I have a Nook. I still buy print books that I want to add to my collection, and I download my “guilty pleasure” reading to my Nook. I like reading on my ereader a lot better than I like reading on my phone or my PC. It’s easier, more comfortable, big enough not to give me a headache or make me scroll the page after 4 words, and small enough to fit in my bigger purse. But that’s just me. I also like the way some of the ebooks, like cookbooks and such, have video demonstrations to go along with the instructions; although I haven’t actually worked myself up to taking my Nook into the kitchen. Anyone who has seen the sauce stains, flour, and other stuff on my recipes knows that electronic readers do not belong anywhere near me when I cook.