A recent blog about beautiful libraries triggered some old memories. As a kid, I loved going to the public library — and still do. Our library wasn’t elaborate or grandiose, yet it seemed immense. People spoke in hushed church-like tones. There was that nameless scent. The obscure Dewey Decimal System held untold secrets just waiting to be decoded. The shelves just dripped with potential. Yes, going to the library was a rich & wondrous experience!
But it’s an experience I fear that my son may never know…
Booked-filled libraries are becoming a thing of the past. But while virtual libraries of e-books are certainly more accessible, I don’t think they’re as appreciable. There’s not the same sense of vastness nor do they inspire the same reverence or wonderment. Digital books seem less tangible and substantial. You can electronically duplicate the content, but not the context or sensual aspect, the smell, feel, heft & texture, of actual books.
I’ll admit that even in spite of my love for real, physical books, I’m not immune to the hype & allure of e-book readers. The idea that in a matter of seconds, you can download a new book rather than ordering it and waiting days or weeks for it to arrive make devices like Amazon.com’s Kindle really attractive. But several factors — not the least of which is the price — have held me back. I’ve seen a Sony e-book reader and the screen was surprisingly easy on the eyes, but deep down I’m still suspicious that the e-book reader experience just wouldn’t be as satisfying or comfortable as reading a book.
But sadly, the trend of replacing actual books with digital versions is only accelerating. In fact, Cushing Academy near Boston is one of the first schools in the U.S. to abandon traditional books in favor of virtual ones. In lieu of a library, the academy is instead creating a media center, spending nearly $500,000 equip it with with flat-screen TVs, e-book readers, and a coffee shop.
Is it just me and this is just nostalgia rearing its head once again? Do you think there’s anything lost in the transition from physical to digital books? Have you considered making the move to e-books? Are libraries all but lost as we plunge ever deeper into the cyberworld?