Technology has changed the way we consume entertainment. If you like cats, every minute Youtube uploads 72 hours worth of video (I am guessing 50% of which is cats doing funny things). Video was supposed to kill the radio star in 1981, but in 2013 modern technology has not bumped radio off yet; to to contrary, we have satellite radio. It would be hard to picture 20 years ago, pulling out your cell phone instead of a camera to take a picture, but that is where we are today. Books have also gotten a digital overhaul. In the past few years, eBooks have flooded the market. Manufacturers have produced a record number of Kindles, Nooks and iPads. How it will affect books in the future is playing out now in courtrooms and living rooms.
There is a lawsuit from the Justice Department about the the format eBooks are being sold and price fixing. What it breaks down to is: when you buy a book, how much do you really own it? And do the big publishers have a monopoly where they can set any price for their product?
Obviously there is more to the lawsuit than these questions, but it gets you thinking. It is easy to wrap up a book and give it as a gift. But when the giftee has an eReader, do you give them gift card to their online store with a book title in mind? Somehow that seems less personal. Many of the books I own have an inscription on the inside cover from a family member, or close friend– that’s not so easy with an eReader. And how many books have you lent out to a friend or bought for a birthday (hoping to borrow it in the future). The DRM format prevents sharing of eBooks. The music industry has scared the publishing industry into thinking anything that is digital will be stolen or pirated. If you own a Kindle and iPad and want to read your book on both devices- have fun buying it twice.
Classics, like Les Miserables, Moby Dick and Tom Sawyer, haven entered into the public domain, are available for free. This is a great way to find books and authors you’ve heard of your entire life, but haven’t gotten around to reading yet. Somerville Public Library has its own collection of eBooks. We encourage you to check them out! What you can’t find in eBook format, try audio books. Now that many people have phones with mp3 capabilities, it is easier to carry an audio book rather than 7 CDs (as long as you have the digital space).
As much as we all love technology, there are certain feelings you get from having a book in your hands. The musty tang of an old book or the fresh ink and paper smell of a new book is a secret love of mine (even though I’m breathing in the decaying glue binding). Or how about the feeling of being 90% done with a book, and having your left hand full of the pages you have read? I know I’m not the only one who, at a party, looks over the host’s bookshelf to find out a little more about their reading proclivities. I’m looking forward to see how eBooks will change the Publishing industry. In the meantime- try not to go Fahrenheit 451 on your print books just yet (unless it’s the yellow pages).
Somerville Library Board of Trustees