Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Three Articles On Libraries

First the Wall Street Journal article by Jeff Zaslow that Katie Couric plagiarized for her video essay: Of the Places You'll Go,
Is the Library Still One of Them?
For parents and grandparents, it's hard to accept that young people today often feel little connection to the local library. We recall the libraries of our childhoods as magical places; getting our first library card was a rite of passage. It saddens us that younger generations seem more eager to buy books than borrow them, or that they consider libraries just another tool for acquiring information.
Second an article by John J. Miller, also in the Wall Street Journal, about a Washington-area library tossing out the classics—because nobody reads them.
The bottom line is that it has never been easier or cheaper to read a book, and the costs of reading probably will do nothing but drop further.

If public libraries attempt to compete in this environment, they will increasingly be seen for what Fairfax County apparently envisions them to be: welfare programs for middle-class readers who would rather borrow Nelson DeMille's newest potboiler than spend a few dollars for it at their local Wal-Mart.
Third an article in The Economist about the future of books.
Google will not divulge exact numbers, but Daniel Clancy, the project's lead engineer, gives enough guidance for an educated guess: Google's contract with one university library, Berkeley's, stipulates that it must digitise 3,000 books a day....

So who is going to read the millions of pages that Google and its colleagues are so busy digitising? Some people will read them on-screen, some will use Google as a taster for books they will then buy in paper form or borrow from a library, and still more will use it to look for specific snippets that interest them.
Further, and typical of the Economist at its best, this article asks us to think in other categories.
Many non-fiction books express an intellectual idea. Traditionally, the only way to deliver such an idea profitably involved binding it into a 300-page book, says Seth Godin, a blogger and author of eight books on marketing. "If you had a 50-page idea, you couldn't make any money from it," he says, so a lot of non-fiction books end up on shelves with 250 unread pages. Freedom from such rigidities may save a lot of authorial time.
Perhaps the Carnegie buildings are monuments to the past. If so, it is time for us to consider: what is the future?

What will it be?