When I was in library school 25 years ago, a future concept was presented that seemed absurd at the time. It was the notion you could read books on a small computerized device about the size of a pocketbook.
In the late 1980s, the idea of relaxing on the beach or in your backyard reading a book on a computer was laughable. Why would anyone give up an actual book to read something that might break or malfunction at any time?
Nobody’s laughing now. E-books are part of our culture these days and their popularity is rising. With the advent of online book ordering, the e-reader and the iPad, e-books are suddenly the most popular thing since sliced bread.
E-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes-and-Noble’s Nook have become hot gift items for parents, grandparents and anyone else not of the Y generation (who are already sold on them). It has suddenly become easy to get hooked on a way of reading that even the most traditional among us might balk at.
For an “old” librarian like me it is not an easy transition. I love books and being among them. It’s exciting to be surrounded by so much information in the workplace. It’s like an art lover soaking in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To be in a truly “paperless society” where a library could conceivably be a computer terminal in an empty building is a difficult notion to accept. I would be part of a profession that would no longer feel like the “gatekeeper of knowledge.”
I personally had no great interest in e-readers, since to me, there’s nothing quite like holding a book in my hands. But my kids decided to give me a Nook for Christmas so I could no longer ignore the technology. I was actually happy to have an e-reader because I could finally become somewhat “literate” in what our patrons go through when checking out e-books through our Four County Library System’s “Download Zone.” It’s an interesting process.