Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Books, Libraries and CNET

I was recently at a fundraising event and the topic of eBooks came up.  As it is does when the fundraising event is for a library.  I found myself in the position of passionately defending eBooks, eReaders and the technology involved.

Not too long afterwards I found myself in another conversation where I found myself passionately defending good old-fashioned paper books.  The kinds with covers and pages and the smell of dust and glue that you just can't emulate.

To parse this out, I love and adore my eReader.  It's loaded with approximately 120 books spanning all genres.  Just in case.  (I live in perpetual fear of being stuck somewhere with nothing to read, don't you?)  I love the ease of acquiring new material, either purchasing from the cloud or borrowing from my library,  And I REALLY enjoy the fact that I can bump up the font size at the end of the day when my eyes are suffering from computer fatigue. When I travel it is one of the first things in my bag.

But...that doesn't mean it will ever replace physical books in my life.  Books are so much more than words, they are an experience bound in pages. They have a feel and a personality that you can't match with simple words on a screen.  Books are visceral, wrapped up in memory, a physical manifestation of Proust's madeleine.  Just catching a glimpse of my neat row of yellow-spine Nancy Drew's recalls lazy summer afternoons underneath the Norwegian Maple in my front yard.  Drips of peach juice stain the pages of Anne Sexton's To Bedlam and Partway Back.  I devoured the book during lunch breaks and was careless in my enthusiasm.  My copy of A Separate Peace  has a dented corner from where I threw it down in a fit of aggravation.

Both mediums have value and I don't plan on giving up either.  I don't understand the concept of "either/or" when "and" is so much more satisfying.  Here's another "and" - both of these mediums are available from your local library. Along with other content and services too numerous to mention.  In fact, your local library is pretty much the King of "and".

Unfortunately "and" is a concept under attack.  Don't believe me?  Read the LISNews report on CNET's Brian Cooley's recent podcast interview.  Who needs libraries when we have the internet, right?  I'll leave you to draw your own opinion of the piece but I think an appropriate lesson would be to lock Mr. Cooley in a room with a group of teachers who have spent the last few years grading Wikipedia-based reports.  They might have a few things to add to the conversation.

1 comment:

  1. Agree utterly. I'm lost without my e-reader but there are still books I buy in hard copy, and my recent trip to the New York Public Library building on Fifth Ave left me in paroxysms of joy when I had the chance to read pages of Mary Shelley's original draft of Frankenstein. Maybe those of us with e-readers have an obligation to fight extra hard to keep our libraries open.