Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Debate Between E-books and Print Books Continues at The Philadelphia Public Library

This morning I watched the local news and saw a piece about The Philadelphia Public Library. It was fast, but the gist of the piece said the library was thinking of putting book and DVD kiosks all over the city. This way people can just use their library card and get books or DVD's without actually having to enter the library. The only written article I could find was this one, about the Chicago Public Library doing the same thing.

Now, if I'd heard something like this ten years ago I would have been excited. But I'm one of those people who have made the switch to e-books and I don't see myself going back. I still read a few print books from my own personal library. But I haven't actually purchased a print book in almost two years. And, like I said, I don't intend to purchase anything but e-books unless something drastically changes and I'm forced to go back to reading print books.

But there's still a huge debate going on about what people prefer. At this point, at least half seem to prefer print books over e-books, and the other half, like me, wouldn't even consider reading a print book now. And the debate seems to be more physical than anything else. Evidently, people love holding their print books, they love turning the pages, and they love the way they smell. Even the newscasters this morning started to argue about it. Two said they only read e-books. Two said they only read print books, and they actually became a little defensive about it...while the two who read e-books were almost apologetic. It looked as if it would get nasty for a second or two.

I used to think I'd never make the switch to reading e-books. But then I started reading a few e-books and I found there were so many advantages. I can adjust the print. I can read on bed without using a light. E-books tend to be less expensive and they are immediate. And I can take my entire personal library with me when I travel. E-readers are light and don't take up any space at all.

The main reason I switched wasn't because of my own personal preferences. I just figured I didn't have much of a choice. If you've been around at least forty years like I have, history always repeats in one way or another. Records became 8-tracks, 8-tracks became cassettes, cassettes became CD's, and now I just download all my music to my ipod. Same thing with the film industry. There aren't even any physical video stores left in my community.

Which makes me wonder how this new library kiosk idea will work. Will people actually stop buying e-readers and e-books and start taking books out of library kiosks? Are e-readers just a passing phase like hoola hoops and poodle skirts? Or is someone getting paid a lot of money by these huge public libraries to come up with some very bad, outdated ideas?

I guess this falls under the category of only time will tell.

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