In an era of Google and Amazon and e-books, can the Net save us money on the construction of new libraries?
I say yes, over the long run. Increase both library spending and the percentage spent on actual books, as opposed to bricks and heating oil. Less than 15 percent of a typical library’s operational budget goes for content of all kinds.
Even so, cities need to ponder such matters carefully and not expect immediate miracles. Remember, that libraries can also be community gathering places, not just book warehouses. Besides, just a fraction of books have been digitized.
Issues like this are now under discussion in Lawrence, Kansas, setting for the library book sale shown here. Citizens are debating a planned library expansion from 44,000 to 100,000-150,000 square feet. The local paper’s story includes quotes from Garth Conboy at ETI, the company that along with Adobe is dominating the IDPF. Excerpt:
Some electronic book tablets already exist on the market for less than $150, and Conboy estimates at least half of the New York Times bestsellers are available in e-book form.
Not even Conboy, though, is so optimistic to predict that e-books will replace paper books anytime soon. That probably won’t happen in his lifetime, he said, but he believes the day is coming when e-books become the preferred choice for large segments of the population. That would be in addition to the growing audio book market that is allowing iPod users to download entire texts for their listening pleasure.
A survey from the American for Libraries Council–mentioned in the newspaper–suggests that e-books aren’t exactly a hit at this point for recreational reading:
Books are better for pleasure reading than electronic methods.
Agree: 86 percent
Disagree: 12 percent
May this change with (1) better hardware and the end of (2) the Tower of eBabel and (3) Draconian DRM! Garth could help in the first area by continuing to perfect hardware–I suspect that a new generation will soon be on the way from ETI.
In the last two areas, it would be great if Garth encouraged the IDPF to move standards setting to a more credible venue, where ETI could still be a key player.
Hey, Garth, how about it?
The more believable and robust are e-book standards, the faster will be the transition to e-books. And the more money can go for digital content over the long run, as opposed to bricks and heating oil.