Reader’s Corner: London Book Fair

dontpanic

Solid advice, always

Neil Gaiman gave the keynote talk at the start of the 2013 London Book Fair, where—after, before, and while doing the actual business of publishing—everybody will again go through many rounds of amateur and professional prognostication about where the industry is going.

Gaiman declined to make any grand pronouncements on the issue of whither-digital, noting that it will continue to change the landscape in many dramatic and unexpected ways. He did share a conversation he had with the late, great Douglas Adams years before e-books were a reality (remember that Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide was really just the sci-fi prototype for the iPad) where they talked about what would happen once that came about:

“I asked him if he thought the inevitable e-book would mean the end of the physical book,” Gaiman said. Adams replied by noting that sharks existed alongside dinosaurs, and yet sharks are still around. “That’s because nothing has ever come along that was quite as good at being a shark as a shark is,” Gaiman said, adding that books, too, are very good at being books.

 

Reader’s Corner: The Bookless Library

booklesslibrary1

It’s an idea that sounds ridiculous on its face but might turn out to have some merit. Texas’s Bexar County, which includes the city of San Antonio, is planning to open up a new library that will hold no printed books. Not one. Instead, patrons will be able to borrow digital reading devices and ebooks. There will also be dozens of computer terminals for public use. According to the Wall Street Journal:

The trial location, opening in a satellite government office on San Antonio’s south side in the fall, will have a selection of about 10,000 titles, and 150 e-readers for patrons to check out, including 50 designed for children. The library will allow users to access books remotely, and will feature 25 laptops and 25 tablets for use on site, as well as 50 desktop computers. It will also have its own coffee house.

Staffers will help patrons with technical questions, but there will be no designated research assistants. County officials, who estimate startup costs at $1.5 million, believe overall costs will be lower than running traditional libraries, and are considering additional locations.

library2There are some problems with this plan, most particularly the still-high cost of entry  (not everybody has an e-reader, and not everybody will be able to borrow one of the library’s) and the also much-higher costs for libraries to buy rental digital copies of some popular books.

That being said, it’s refreshing to see a local government still striving to create open spaces for its citizens to gather, receive services, and access free literature and information. Plus: coffee.

Now, if somebody could just revitalize the bookmobile as a traveling free Wi-Fi spot with great books (maybe coffee too), they’d really be on to something.

Side note: very cool slideshow of bookmobiles here.