WILL UNWOUND #381: “Rave Thursday…In Support of Real Books”March 10, 2011
There is a well intentioned eReaders Bill of Rights going around in the internet. It’s a response to the controversial Harper Collins decision to blow up ebooks that get 26 library circulations. Enough ink, I’m sorry …bytes, have been spent on discussing this issue. Suffice it to say, without wasting any more, that ebooks have huge problems for libraries that right now are nowhere near being solved.
There is one good thing that has come out of the Harper Collins ebook controversy…a new appreciation for good old paper and glue antiques. These are often called pbooks for print books or physical books. I on the other hand call them real books.
I have had a love affair with real books for 61 years and I am not about to dump them over an infatuation for the latest shiny new toy. Therefore, stubborn as ever, I propose the following bill of rights for readers of real books:
- Public libraries should not cut already diminished real book budgets to purchase the fleeting licensing rights for ebooks until libraries get a fair deal from publishers. Far worse than the 26 circulation limit is the stipulation that you can only lend one e-book out to one patron at a time. This totally negates the biggest advantage of ebooks. Until this basic stipulation is changed, boycott all e-books, not just Harper Collins ebooks.
- In these harsh economic times public libraries should not subsidize affluent borrowers who can afford ebook reading machines at the expense of readers who cannot afford them.
- With diminishing budgets, public libraries should stop throwing money at videogames and movies and focus on maintaining real book budgets.
- With the graying of the American reading public, libraries should invest more money in real books with LARGE PRINT.
- The big advantage of real books is their lasting value. Libraries should therefore stop wasting megabucks on multiple copies of bestsellers that will be weeded in a year or two.
- Libraries should emphasize diversity and quality in real book acquisitions. Do taxpayers really want to fund media entertainment centers?
- Scarce public resources should be spent on educational and enrichment resources. This means returning to the foundational principles of American librarianship.
- The best return on the real book investment is with children’s books. Children are the catalysts who get the entire family involved in the library. The last thing that any library should do is cut real books for real children. Children have enough shiny toys at home. They need real books. Give them what they need.
- Reference jobs should be replaced with readers advisory jobs. Today Google makes everyone a reference librarian, but very few people are book experts. We need to reinstill a reading culture in America. The readers advisory librarian needs to be taken off the endangered list.
- Library weeding programs should be based on keeping books with enduring value. Whole collections should not be gutted by the tyranny of circulation statistics.
- Libraries should constantly be acquiring fresh new copies of the classics and should keep up with new and robust translations (eg. Fagles’ Homer and Heaney’s Beowulf).
Ball’s in your court, Unwinders.