I have been prone to breaking the Tenth Commandment as of late, because I have been coveting Amazon’s Kindle e-reader for months now. The other day I was in Barnes & Noble and got a full demonstration of the Kindle’s competitor, the Nook. And they are fantastic! Each feature a high resolution gray scale screen, which is not back-lit, making for smooth bold text that is easy on the eyes. You can carry a virtual library with you on the road or at home and download new titles in seconds with a wireless connection.
All for $259.00.
But it occurred to me that the people promoting these nifty new gadgets are the largest book sellers in America. Bloggers that promote them either 1) have a lot of money they spend on technology or 2) work for book publishers!
I have looked at my savings account the last two years and it has grown steadily for basically one reason: the Minneapolis Public Library (oh, I should also include the private college and seminary library too). I spent roughly $50 a month on books for most of the decade, which I believe was not a bad investment. There is nothing wrong with building your own personal library and it came in handy when I was writing paper’s for school. If you like books, especially the type you reference in term papers then have it! Still, it became a point of financial frustration to put off reading a good book to pay a bill, and term paper writing always demanded more resources than I could supply. So I discovered the library.
If the book is (arguably) the greatest invention humankind ever came up with then the library is the greatest institution humankind ever established. Historically, books have been both rare and expensive. Today they are ubiquitous and easy to produce, but they still require a cost to produce and distribute, and if you are like me and like to read books that are hard to find and out of print, you are at the mercy of the used book-seller. The library solves all of those problems. You don’t have to shell out any money, you can find just about anything you want, and you don’t have to find a place to put them when you’re done (moving my own personal library really is a pain).
The library may not be as convenient as an e-reader, but it retains its supreme advantage of being inexpensive. Hopefully, the library will be able to find some way to co-exist with e-readers so that it will remain a valuable part of our society. For now book stores have the most to gain.