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Changes in Reading

My last blog entry of 2012 focused on a community who refilled the shelves of their recently shut down local library. This heart-warming story illustrated the importance that underscores the presence of a library or a bookstore in a community. Books can be found in and contribute to creating some of the most elegant stores in the world. These are buildings that house a wealth of entertainment, intellect, and emotion that are to be found in books.

Now let me swing to the opposite side for my first post of 2013 and tell you about a building that houses a wealth of entertainment, intellect, and emotion but does not possess a single printed book. Bexar County, TX is set to open the first book-less library this summer. The library will allow its residents to have access to electronic titles and let them check out e-readers. One of the architects behind the BiblioTech has reasoned that “The ever-changing landscape of technology means that literacy is no longer about picking up a physical book and being able to comprehend the words…Technology is changing the way we read, learn and thrive as citizens of the 21st Century.”

I agree with the sentiments behind this reasoning but I wouldn’t put it so didactically. The development of technology gives us options for how we read. It caters to a whole spectrum of taste, lifestyle, and needs. I don’t think we have to negate one to have the other or have to stand on a particular side of the fence and declare our allegiance. While I am grateful to be able to slip out my slinky e-reader whilst being crushed on the morning subway, I am just as thrilled to be able to ease back in a comfy chair, put my feet up and thumb my way through a hefty print book.

This is why I was intrigued to read this article that highlighted the presence of e-readers in traditional book stores in the UK. Essentially, e-readers sold at the bookstore would see the bookstore take a cut of future e-book sales, giving them an added revenue stream. Not confined to the UK, a number of US indie bookstores are also getting in on the act and through your reading device you are able to purchase e-book titles through independent bookstores.

For me, the development of technology has given us more options in the way we read. I have not been forced to choose one or the other and am excited to see if the conversation about print and electronic versions of books will begin to embrace one another rather than remain diametrically opposed. After all when you mix technology and books together and get this, it’s worth staying optimistic.

Are you embracing the best of both worlds? Or are you set in your reading ways. I’d love to know!

3 Responses to Changes in Reading

  1. Joelle says:

    I’m not set in my ways, but I really don’t see myself ever having an e-reader. I’ve tried them. It really had no appeal. And unlike you, I don’t commute, or travel. I do almost all of my reading in a comfy chair, on the couch, or in the bath. When I do occasionally travel, I take paperbacks that I can leave behind, and buy books on the road. If I want to travel light, I listen to an audio book.

    Our library has started checking out e-readers (that’s where I tried one) and they are teaching workshops in the libraries on how to use them, and people are interested. It seems like a great compromise to embracing a book-less library. I do wonder why people have to be so either or all the time.

  2. Emily Carter says:

    Hi Yessine!

    I love knowing that BEXAR COUNTY has a digital library in the works — I live a few miles from that county line and always thought of San Antonio as a kind of Texas backwater but today the joint is jumping over there.

    And even though you and I have this exchange in a silent medium, I will share a kind of silly mistake I heard not so long ago on NPR. A new announcer in Austin, speaking of BEXAR county, pronounced the name: BEX-ARE. For the record it is an old Spanish name pronounced very simply: BEAR — like the critter found in the woods.

    As for the digital technological whirl-wind we find ourselves in, hey lets go for the ride!

    Roger McNamee on Charlie Rose last night, discussing the future of media, entertainment and consumer technology, asserted that “every 18 months consumer technology becomes twice as powerful and half as expensive.”

    That tracks with my experience.

    He went on to say, “everything becomes cheaper over time,” and “the ‘means of production’ is in the hands of consumers.”

    YES – again that tracks with my experience. I started in print publication in the days when I had to measure a page, cut photographs to fit a window, and paste them on the board for a printer who then made another image for the offset printer.

    When I retired, the printer had software that adjusted the ink flow to match the dot-gain on the specific paper rolling through the press.

    And that was 10 years ago.

    You and I would not be discussing the matter, in this online location, if it were not for the advances in technology.

    Owing to the self-same technology, I am publishing a small work on Texas history on my blog – one or two ‘pages’ a month for the next 11 months. After that, I will no doubt take it to a self-published eBook.

    As McNamee has said, ‘the means of production is in the hands of consumers but he might have said, IN THE HANDS OF CREATORS.

    The only reason I’m doing the blog publishing thing is to maintain my intellectual property rights since I have a reason to suspect that the rights are in jeopardy.

    Apparently I am motivated by the suspicion that someone else will claim my stuff if I don’t move on it – so the little book will get finished.

    Beyond ePublishing, the capacity for instantly creating a hard copy of a book is just now heating up. So let’s assume I produce some kind of blockbuster publication, how far can I go?

    I live in a country town, population less than 5000, but with high-speed internet connectivity through TimeWarner on my street and satellite connections on other streets. Of course I am within 50 miles of a number of large universities. So technology provides me with the opportunity to live in a quiet location, easily travel to UT-Austin, ect., communicate around the world, and create my own written productions. And even publish them.

    However, there is a point of diminishing returns embedded in all this self-production. As I see it, that is the point where an agency like yours comes into play.

    Your agency’s wisdom of years, your personal connections within the entertainment industry, become unreplaceable. I don’t think technology can bridge the virtues of an agency like yours.

    Yeah – I read with a NOOK. And I pray for the welfare of B&N. My dearest hope is that the poor beast we know as a ‘bookstore’ will expand its capacity and services so PROFOUNDLY that in another 10 years we will all be amazed at the morph of B&N from simple little neighborhood bookstore into some kind of industry GIANT.

    Kind regards,
    Emily

  3. D. C. DaCosta says:

    I am wondering how long it will be before someone will conduct a study that will demonstrate significant ecological damage in the disposal of e-reader batteries…and old e-readers…and an assessment of the additional cost of electricity associated with their use.

    Books are recyclable and biodegradable.

    Now, if only what was written in them was of better quality, so that so many did not deserve to be recycled and to biodegrade!

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