Wanted: Your essays

Why do we need two well-stocked national digital library systems—one public, one academic? What should they be like?

We’ll welcome your thoughts for us to pass on to policymakers. Email Tom Peters and cc David Rothman. You don’t have to be a librarian to contribute. We’d love to hear from library fans.

One of our favorite reasons: Increasing the number and quality of e-books available to local library users.

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5 comments to “Wanted: Your essays”
5 comments to “Wanted: Your essays”
  1. I’ve just started reading your essay on Chronicle of Higher Education and thinking about your project, and such projects generally, this is a pretty tentative comment on my part. You say a reason is “One of our favorite reasons: Increasing the number and quality of e-books available to local library users.”

    I’m wondering what model would return a fair return to authors and publishers. Best-sellers are a problem: Fiction or such books as memoirs of ex-presidents. As a seller of used books I found these are best deposited in a landfill, as the market price is .01 once a few months have passed and they are often so heavy the postage received for shipping does not cover the cost. Yet there is heavy demand. Such productions need to pay their own freight. I question use of public funds for distribution of such material. A few copies that can be discarded later is one thing; mass distribution of millions of copies quite another.

    Hope you find this feedback helpful.

    Fred Bauder

    • Great question, Fred; thanks. I’m out town but will answer it in greater detail later this week on my return. Meanwhile I will say that if nothing else, paper and landfill and shipping costs would be lower with e-books in use 😉 Remember, this would be a virtual library system.

      David Rothman
      Co-founder, LibraryCity

  2. Hi, Fred. Looking back, I see my initial reply pretty much covers things. With electronic books, you don’t ever have to worry about sending unwanted copies to the landfill. You just let the electronic files expire and avoid buying more copies (for one-patron-at-a-time access) or making other expenditures related to the title. Of course, you might be in trouble if you paid in advance for accesses that were not used. But I suspect libs and publishers can eventually settle on workable biz models. A national digital library system would make this process easier.

    David Rothman

  3. We still need wheels, but the Conestoga wagons are history. Farriers are no longer an occupation in demand, and we all know the fate of the 8-track tape & cassette music industries. The digital library system may seem like a good idea, but relegating alternative uses for libraries to “…community meeting places, reference help and other services in-person, links to community-relevant books, and online and virtual forums” should be viewed as what they really are: the death knoll for those institutions as we know them. That may or may not be a bad thing, but implying they can survive in another format might be a bit over ambitious.

    • Hi, Jack. Thanks for your comments, but many people would disagree with your views about brick-and-mortar libraries in the era of e-books. Libraries are indeed about much more than books. Will such services as story hours for kids really be as effective virtually? And how about friendly face-to-face reference helps for patrons with major personal challenges such as sickness or financial reversals? Or, yes, libraries’ role as community meeting places? Can that be entirely virtualized? Looking ahead, how about access to 3D printing machines and accompanying instruction? Technologies will come and go, but public libraries ideally will remain; maybe you should think of the libraries themselves as wheels that outlast the Conestoga wagons. If nothing else, keep in mind that paper books aren’t going to vanish immediately. And even if they do, people may want to meet face to face—for the social experience—to discuss their electronic reading. DR

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