I was sitting in church, feeling pretty meditative, when the man next to me pulled out his ipad and, with fingers flying, “turned” to the scripture reading of the day. All higher thoughts fled as I huffed a bit and slightly drew away from him. Everyone knows that bibles are thin paper covered in rich leather, with various inscriptions, references and details. I know, shame on me.
The twenty first century has spawned a plethora of devices with which you can read a good book; iPhones, iPads, iPods, Android phones, tablets, Nooks, Kindles with varying capabilities and prices as well as the humble computer. I’m reminded of a Star Trek episode in which the library was filled with nothing but discs and a machine to read them. They held the world’s knowledge but could also be used as time travel devices. This “library” was manned by one senior citizen who had no customer service skills. But that was science fiction…or was it?
I love print copies of books; the feel, the smell, the ability to manually turn a page in anticipation of the next word or scene. Some people have joyously embraced the arrival of eReaders and similar devices and in the future I will probably buy one. They are certainly convenient if you are on a subway, trying to juggle lots of things and don’t have a seat. Because my feeling is primarily visceral, I can’t fully explain it, however a book is not just the words on the paper to me. Somehow I don’t think Emily Dickinson’s “bequest of wings” was a Kindle.
Is there a generation coming that may never open a book? As someone who has conducted too many storyhours to count, I hope not. When little people browse in the shelves and finally decide on Curious George, Goodnight Moon or Green Eggs and Ham, the light in their eyes when they trot to the circulation desk is priceless. It’s the same anticipatory eagerness you see when someone clutches a new book by their favorite author. It’s hard to clutch a nook.
Lest I seem down on all those marvelous devices, let me say that after paying hefty fees for damaged books, I can certainly see the merit in using something less susceptible to puppy attacks, rain drops and coffee spills – and something that doesn’t require dead trees. Check out this website to see how eReaders compare to real books in other ways.
Just as the traditional library has evolved from a collection of books to a collection of resources and services, the books themselves have evolved. We now have a choice as to how we want to read them. The wonderful thing is that whatever you want – audiobooks, eBooks or print copies – you can find it in our eLibrary and traditional catalog.