The Future of Books

8-29-10ipadI’m sort of obsessed with this topic as a book lover, historian and someone who embraces new technology. With the advent of the ebook, everyone seems to wonder what will become of the typical paper book. When I was working at a public library, it was around the time that ereaders got really big; it seemed like everyone and their grandma (literally) got one for Christmas and was eager to use it to take out library books.

As Erik Qualman so astutely predicts in Socialnomics, libraries have adapted to the ereader and adding ebooks to their collection. He was right when he asserted that books would be available to borrow on ereader devices and his wish came true when libraries eliminated all late fees with ebooks; they simply vanished from the ereader when the two week lending period was over. He was also right when he predicted that perhaps only a certain number of copies would be available to the library. Libraries (or at least the one I worked at) had the rights to a certain number of digital copies of a book, which, contrary to popular belief, means that only that number of people can read the book at once. And when one person has finished the book, the next person on the waitlist can read it. If memory serves me right, the library only had the rights to the book for a limited amount of time and they would have to pay again to renew the digital book. So is it really cheaper for libraries to choose an ebook over the hard copy?

Qualman notes that the future of books won’t change as rapidly as music and movies have and I certainly agree with him on this. As he notes, there is something to be said about curling up on the couch with a good book and this isn’t something that an ereader can replicate. As an owner of a Kobo, I have to say that I prefer the real thing. Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfect for trips and vacations where you don’t want to be weighed down by books, but when it comes time to purchase a book, you better believe I’ll be getting the paper copy.

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