Reader’s Corner: The Bookless Library

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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.

 

Reader’s Corner: Authorial Garbage

kenlopezFor writers who are looking for another reason why they never ever need to clean up after themselves, now they have something to work with besides: “I just need to polish this chapter.” The success of literary estate bloodhounds like Ken Lopez has proven the strange marketability of all kinds of marginalia (especially “interesting paper piles”) that nobody would ever have thought made sense to hang on to. Norman Mailer sold over a thousand boxes of his odds and ends in 2005 for $2.5 million.

Also, according to the Wall Street Journal, sometimes the buyers of this margnalia (university libraries, normally) can help function as a kind of executive assistant:

In 2006, for an undisclosed amount, Salman Rushdie sold [Emory University] 200 “falling apart, crappy cardboard boxes,” as he said at the collection’s opening in 2010. After Emory’s archivists put his “mess” in order, Mr. Rushdie capitalized on their tidiness to research his own 2012 memoir.

All authors need now to ensure that their various scribblings, laundry lists, and whatnot will fetch a pretty price in the future is to become wildly beloved by critics and preferably sell a million or so copies of their work in order to achieve a profitable literary immortality. Cake.

Things That Are Terrible: Big Wheels, Redux

Since apparently Gen X, Gen Y, and possibly even Millennials didn’t have enough childish things to be getting obsessively retro about, now there is actually something of a market for adult-sized Big Wheels. According to the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Armbruster, 44 years old, is the founder and sole employee of High Roller USA, a manufacturer of adult-size low-riding trikes that he runs out of his Lafayette, Colo., home. Unlike the plastic trikes of his youth, the High Roller has a steel frame, costs $600 and is designed for people who change diapers instead of wear them.

…In addition to High Roller, there are at least two other upstart companies making adult versions. One of them, Urbantrike, makes several adult trikes including a model that has a textured tire for riding in dirt and a lowrider that has shiny aluminum wheels that are perfect “for tailgating parties.”

There has been an annual Big Wheel race down Lombard Street for a few years now. This makes sense in a way, because A) It’s San Francisco, and B) It happens maybe once a year. After all, even unicycling is acceptable when done once a year and likely under the affects of alcohol.

But when companies are advertising high-end “trikes” for the adult market (featuring racers in helmets no less) that retail for hundreds of dollars, something seems to have gone horribly awry. It calls to mind The Onion headline from a few years back about the bar-owner who couldn’t believe he actually sponsored an adult kickball team.

Reader’s Corner: Four Hours a Day

Getting a look at somebody’s reading habits is always interesting. Not because it reveals particular traits that may lie dormant—though people with very persnickety reading tendencies (I must read everything from the New York Times bestseller list; I can only read one book at a time) are likely to be not the most relaxed types in their everyday life—but because it lets you see something of their inner self.

And sometimes it’s fascinating just because it reminds you exactly what an important part of life the daily habit of reading books is. Take Joe Queenan’s piece from last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, “My 6,218 Favorite Books.” In it, Queenan writes affectionately of his lifelong addiction to the daily pursuit of printed words on bound pages, and of the somewhat hopeless nature of it:

I’ve never squandered an opportunity to read. There are only 24 hours in the day, seven of which are spent sleeping, and in my view at least four of the remaining 17 must be devoted to reading. A friend once told me that the real message Bram Stoker sought to convey in “Dracula” is that a human being needs to live hundreds and hundreds of years to get all his reading done; that Count Dracula, basically nothing more than a misunderstood bookworm, was draining blood from the necks of 10,000 hapless virgins not because he was the apotheosis of pure evil but because it was the only way he could live long enough to polish off his extensive reading list. But I have no way of knowing if this is true, as I have not yet found time to read “Dracula.”

There is never enough time in the day to read even a fraction of what you want to. So what are you doing here? Get cracking. That pile on your bedside table isn’t going to get any smaller the longer you waste on the Internet.