Reader's Exchange

June 2014 - Posts

Just wait 'til you hear

We understand why library customers ask us The Question (how we feel about “libraries going away now that we have ebooks and the internet”). 

Earlier this week, one such inquirer stacked her pile of library books on the Reference desk while she entered the drawing for this week’s Reader’s Bonanza tote bag prize--these actions at least partially demonstrating why ebooks don’t signal our demise.

This lady reads ebooks, too (thank you, Overdrive at RRPL!) and probably enjoys the amazing convenience of the internet, as do library staffers and many patrons.  But the internet doesn’t answer all your questions—the reason this valued customer came to the Reference desk.   And let’s not forget that library resources save their users a significant amount of money.

Digital books and the internet aren’t library replacements—they represent additional avenues of access for libraries to facilitate—along with print, still preferred by an impressive percentage of readers.   As publishing options diversify and technology advances, everyone is guessing how market shares and format preferences will evolve.   The only sure bet—my opinion--is that consumers aren’t thinking “instead of”; they want “also”.

Librarians are not just OK with publishing upheaval, we tend to be energized by it, perhaps more comfortable with the changes than our customers are.  When one works at a desk where anyone can approach at any time with all sorts of questions, one learns to respond with “Hmmmm, let’s see…” rather than “Oh, no!”

Other reasons for optimism:

The audio age:  Audiobooks are burgeoning in popularity.  Library Journal reports a confluence of factors-- longer commuting times, expanding variety, diversity in audio formats, convenience of mobile devices—driving the current audio boom.  Audio Publishers Association observes that, “while other areas of the publishing industry are shrinking, audiobooks are its fastest growing segment” with, according to APA president Michelle Cobb, “an astonishing 83 percent increase in audiobook titles produced just from 2011 to 2012”.  Yesterday, a customer who’s an audio enthusiast and I were dropping names of career audiobook readers, some of whose reputations rival those of film stars.   And you’d be surprised how many celebrity actors (e.g., Bryan Cranston) also work as audiobook narrators.

Giveaway alert (especially if a road trip is in your future):  The library’s adult services department will offer a dozen unabridged CD audiobooks as Facebook drawings and in-house “pop-up prizes” in the coming week.
Clamor for HP books

The “buzz” factor:  Physical books retain their power to incite passion, acquisitiveness, and delight.   Stephen Colbert’s advocacy for Edan Lepucki’s forthcoming California will do wonders for a debut author’s career—but Colbert also has a point to prove about vendor responsibility toward customers.

At trade conferences like ALA and BEA, limited quantities of pre-publication giveaway copies are scouted, coveted, and grabbed with alacrity when the stacks materialize on the floor, signaling availability.  Last month at Book Expo, I thought I’d missed getting the ARC of Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life, third in her trilogy.  Assuming this to be my due for having once claimed I didn’t read vampire novels, I had resigned myself when a colleague alerted me to the still-open autograph line and the last few copies, after which I gleefully hugged the longed-for volume to my chest.

I hope no one saw that.

Which came first: the fried chicken or...?

“What was the weather like?” That’s the first question co-workers asked about New York last week (I attended Book Expo America).  Answer: “I wore my coat every day!” 

Ignoring the forecast for weeklong 70s, I packed light outerwear that made brisk walking in that unexpectedly cool, windy spell a pleasure--not that I was merely traipsing from Point A to Point B.  Most of the time I hauled armloads of books back to the hotel to stash in my luggage.  Those treasures and a 45-pound box of publisher giveaways and advance reader copies shipped from BEA will furnish prizes for grownup library customers during the "Mad About Reading" summer reading campaign.    Check our Facebook page and library homepage for details next week. 

Last summer, when we held weekly drawings for literary goodies and hosted spontaneous “Pop-Up Prize” giveaways at the reference desk, we relished seeing customers’ expressions change from puzzled to thrilled as we confirmed: “Take it--it's yours!” 

BEA called to mind another rewarding variety of takeaway—candid gems from authors whose work we cherish. 

The Library Journal-sponsored Day of Dialog in the McGraw-Hill building (50th floor, nice view of the Empire State Building) featured practical discussions: collection development, formats in transition, etc.  But DoD is most known for stellar assemblages of authors and publishers, all passionate about their upcoming releases, their enthusiasm contagious. During presentations--editors’ picks, cookbook trends, women fiction writers, key contemporary authors—noted panelists offered up choice commentary: 

Lisa Scottoline’s zingers broke up the room at frequent intervals.  She shared a favorite compliment, bestowed by a gentleman who claimed that he never bought books authored by women:  “You write like a man”. 

Scottoline, who loves to visit libraries and has done so countless times, confessed, “I’m a library ***.” 

Lengendary food writer/restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton, asked what inspired her 1000 Things to Eat Before You Die, smiled, “Well, what motivated me was making a great deal of money.” 

Lee Brian Schrager, author of Fried and True (an entire cookbook about fried chicken) corrected the notion that this delicacy is of American, specifically Southern, origin.  The true birthplace of FC:  Scotland. 

Addressing the panel’s observation that “women’s fiction” is a label while “men’s fiction” is not, Sophie Littlefield suggested this alternative:  “Fiction You Will Like”. 

Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings, recounted anecdotes from his university teaching experience and admitted to a fascination with the 1970s: “I just wanted to put my characters in polyester.” 

Chelsea Cain, her injured leg cushioned and propped atop a chair, garnered a roomful of guffaws by announcing the title of her new thriller:  One Kick.    

Asked which women authors deserved bigger audiences, the “Women Writing Fiction” panel recommended these up-and-coming talents:

Princess Bride mug
S.J. Bolton
Victoria Schwab
Lidia Yuknavitch
Linda Castillo
Karen Witemeyer
Sarah Gran
Sarah Beth Durst
and Stephanie PerkinsThe library has books by everyone on this list.

Finally, a memorable revelation not from Day of Dialog but overheard at Javits Center in the massive queue awaiting an autograph and a moment with Cary Elwes of Princess Bride fame:  “I missed a friend’s wedding for this!”