Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Death of the Book: A Fascinating Essay by a Literary Giant

Legendary fantasy fiction author Ursula K. LeGuin posted this essay online and the link was passed along to the NH library community by the Director of the Rollinsford Public Library. Like the horse to car, radio to TV transitions, the paper book to ebook movement has fueled passions, pro and con. LeGuin's position is that with the ability to read on a screen comes more, not less, reading, and that books are books. It's just a matter of another format, which is what librarians have been trying to tell everyone since books-on-tape first appeared. You like hardcovers, she likes paperbacks, Granny likes large prints, Uncle likes audiobooks, Junior likes ebooks. You say tomayto, I say tomahto.

I just came home from a short visit with my mom, who likes to read paperbacks. She eschews the library (can you hear me grinding my teeth?) in favor of the used book store crammed floor to ceiling with mass market paperbacks. She doesn't want an ereader. On the other hand, her older sister got a Kindle for Christmas, pre-loaded by one of her 17 grandkids with a selection of Debbie Macombers, Nora Robertses, and other authors she likes. She was quite excited about the Kindle, though it hadn't been on her Christmas list. I wonder how much she likes it 3 months later?

I had coffee with my friend Betty this morning. Betty recently got a color Nook, and is having a great time downloading free ebooks from She is also getting started with NH Downloadable Books, as are many of our other patrons. Betty says she's reading more than ever. Now isn't that just what Ursula LeGuin is talking about?

So we've got ebooks, and more people are reading. The sky isn't falling. Libraries aren't closing. In fact, librarians are busier than ever, helping people with the new technology, not to mention all of the other things that we do. I think we need to stop obsessing about format and start focussing on how to get good books into people's hands, in any format, so they can READ!

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