Notes of a Binge Thinker

Thoughts from NTLP's Executive Director

The Future of Reading

I attended the Texas Library Association Conference last week and it was fantastic.  Let’s of great networking and learning.  One of the most interesting tidbits of knowledge I gleaned was not even from the conference.  It was this article I read from IO9 blog.  5 Ways The Google Book Settlement Will Change The Future of Reading by Annalee Newitz goes into how reading will change because of the Google Book Settlement.  Her number 4 is that libraries and bookstores will become the same thing.

Ultimately what Google has done is transform libraries into bookstores. They’ve done this quite literally, by digitizing the contents of several libraries and turning them into revenue-generators. They want to sell these books; and failing that, to sell ads against them. At the same time, they are already in the process of building a massive, free archive of rare and public domain books. And they’re making them available to anyone with an internet connection.

That’s why the GBS has to be evaluated as a document that regulates libraries as well as a digital bookstore. A library is, after all, a vast repository of research texts that tell us the (hopefully balanced) history of our culture. There are things we demand of libraries that we don’t demand of bookstores. We want libraries to be as complete as possible; we want them maintained as a public good; and perhaps most importantly we want them preserved as long as possible through changes in political regimes and fashions.

If you look at Google Books from that perspective, two basic issues emerge from the Settlement: privacy for readers, and protection against censorship (i.e., making politically unpopular books “disappear”).

I don’t agree with everything the author speculates for the future, but it does get one thinking about how libraries will interact with econtent in this day of ereaders and ebooks.

This month, I am researching the library as a community gathering place.  I have gotten some really great responses to my monthly questions.  Be on the look out for the article around May 1st.


Written by amwlkaw

April 20, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Posted in Misc

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