Reader's Exchange

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.


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