Book Trailer The Noble Train

Friday, September 23, 2011

Kindle and our Libraries of Old

My fondest memories are rolling through the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore and finding new books to read. I always read what I wasn't supposed to be reading because I wasn't supposed to be reading it. Rosemary's Baby or a book about drugs called Tuned Out or just about any flashy cover on the paperback rack. But then I disappeared into the stacks and looked for my Henry Huggins books or Romona and Beatrice or Tom Swift or the Hardy Boys. Then I would sometimes just walk the stacks and find the big picture books from World War II and sit down and pour over the photos of battle and gore and marvel at men who actually went and fought and died.

Finally, I would check out my books and walk home in the crisp twilight with the excitement of the books under my arms. I still feel that excitement when I walk into a library today. Something about a building of books just gets my mind rolling. All that possibility in those carpeted aisles with the lady in the beehive and reading glasses glancing at those that would disturb the inner sanctum. The slightly harried younger woman working behind the front desk that are forever cataloging books or trying to find a missing library card because a mother and her kids are imploding.

Communities are defined by their libraries. It is one of the first things a town builds. And the biggest towns (Chicago) have incredible libraries. And it is hard to believe that world might go away. Maybe not be anytime soon, but the Ebook is the first foot in the door of a world where people don't have to leave home to go the library. The library as we know it with the cranky women keeping order and the pulpy smell of old books could well one day be reduced to a server.  A strange thought.

Amazon  just opened up the Kindle to libraries.That means people like myself can now zap a book into my reader at my kitchen table and never leave the house. The overwhelming advantage of the Kindle or any Ereader is one of convenience. It is simply easier to plunk a book out of thin air and read it. There is none of the driving to the bookstore or library and parking and paying for gas and searching out the book. You simply do it in seconds. This doesn't bode well for bookstores or libraries.

The faint erosion of library traffic will not be noticeable at first. There are simply too many people who prefer books. But as times passes, the people who grew up on Ereaders will not reach for a book the way we don't reach for an eight track tape or a  record. The medium has simply passed. And it is a sad thought that our collective isolation from technology might just spread to even our libraries.

I don't know. Even if all the books are gone, I'll still go to the library and walk the stacks. Me and the lady in the beehive with that sweater she is forever pulling together, looking over her glasses. Shhhhhhh. People are reading. For now anyway.

Rocket mans fight to get out of suburbia

Books by William Hazelgrove