Friday, March 18, 2011

If libraries+bookstores=good, then ebooks+bookstores=good

So anyway, back to that library gala. The Bellevue Library just overtook the library in Queens, NY to be the number one most visited library in the country. Their gala took place in the library -- which made me worried going in that the lighting would be designed to help people read (what you want in a library) rather than to help you look good in a cocktail dress (what you want in a gala) -- for which it was entirely suited. Great space, great lighting, and, as my husband pointed out, replete with entertainment when you got bored of schmoozing and watching your wife sign books. That is, it's beautiful, a place you want to be and hang out.

The gala was sponsored by/supported by/and sold copious books supplied by a local, independent bookstore, Third Place Books. What struck me was that no one thought this was a problematic pairing. No one thought: if we offer people books on loan for free, they'll stop buying them. No one thought: if we make books too affordable and bookstores too cool, no one will use libraries anymore. Instead, everyone knows this: teach a kid to fish and s/he'll eat for a lifetime. Kids who grow up on libraries will be lifelong readers who will 1) support local libraries and 2) support local bookstores. Used, usable libraries make for strong communities which make for smarter, more curious, more well-read, more wealthy, more healthy, more cultured, more community-supporting, bookstore-supporting, library-supporting citizenry plus a nicer place to live. Duh.

Whereas the attitude towards ebooks is the opposite. All of the players in this game seem to have concluded that ebooks mean the death of bookstores, mega and local, and of community reading spaces and most authors who aren't Dan Brown. This seems stupid to me. I'm back to teach a kid to read and s/he'll eat for a lifetime. Seems to me that ebooks should, in fact, lead to greater demand and support for bookstores and library services and authors because what we all want is readers. Make reading easy, available, affordable, portable, sleek, and cool, and you make people who read more. Those people are going to want spaces to go read with other people, spaces to go read and also get coffee, spaces to read with other readers, spaces to meet authors and go to events, ways to connect with their community, a wide variety of good things to read, people to recommend good things to read, people to filter out all the crappy things they don't want to read so that they can find the ones they do, and, well, lots of libraries and bookstores and authors. I own a Kindle AND I spend a lot of money at the bookstore AND I spend a lot of money at the library (because we support the library but also, okay, because we lost a wallet of kid DVDs in the airport in Minneapolis, but that's another problem, the problem of flying cross-country several times a year with a toddler. Now if libraries could solve that problem, we'd be in business.) People get their reading material from lots of places, not just one. Ebooks make for people who read more. That is the world I want to live in.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Bellevue library must be doing something right. That's amazing.