Do libraries really need Kindles?

An article in newsday.com asks the (frankly boring) question, “Has the digital e-book moment arrived?” but looks for its answer in an unusual place: libraries.

Thomas Maier specifically asks Long Island librarians whether they will be purchasing Amazon Kindles for their libraries, and not surprisingly, the answer is largely no. Or at least, not yet.

I’d be surprised to see libraries purchase them at all. While I understand libraries need to keep up with the latest technology to remain competitive in the information marketplace (man, I hate that phrase), I don’t quite see how Kindles will help them do that. Loaning e-books and helping their readers use free electronic books on the web on their own Kindles, sure. I just don’t think Kindles, or any kind of electronic reader, are going to replace paper books entirely, and if there is any place that can keep our cultural love for the printed word (and I mean the really printed word) alive, it should be the library. Right?

In some respects I’d see it as akin to libraries purchasing iPods. I don’t really see the point. I don’t imagine that they would be loanable pieces of technology, and who is going to want to sit in the library and read a book in its entirety?

Now, I’m not the kind of girl who says things like, “Libraries will never need to purchase this technology.” Who can foresee how the publishing world will change? But I do think asking whether librarians will purchase Kindles for their libraries is the best way to answer the question “Have digital e-books arrived?” A better way, perhaps?

Would librarians buy Kindles for themselves? I thought I would never want a digital reading device. But the Kindle has definitely sparked some technolust in my soul. And that tells me, at least, that the e-book has arrived.

One thought on “Do libraries really need Kindles?

  1. Chris van Hasselt

    In Chapel Hill, our library is well-funded, but still, every dollar counts. I can’t see how it makes sense, now anyway, to buy relatively expensive Kindles to loan. Surely they’ll get a price break, but you could buy a number of books for the same price. And shared among many users, many of whom are careless teenagers, I bet replacing Kindle’s would become an expensive budget buster.

    Reply

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