Just wait ’til you hear

We understand why library customers ask us The Question (how we
feel about “libraries going away now that we have ebooks and the

Earlier this week, one such inquirer stacked her pile of library books
on the Reference desk while she entered the drawing for this week’s Reader’s
tote bag prize–these actions at least partially demonstrating why
ebooks don’t signal our demise.

This lady reads ebooks, too (thank you, Overdrive at RRPL!)
and probably enjoys the amazing convenience of the internet, as do library
staffers and many patrons.  But the internet doesn’t answer all your
questions—the reason this valued customer came to the Reference desk.  
And let’s not forget that library resources save their users a significant
amount of money.

Digital books and the internet aren’t library replacements—they
represent additional avenues of access for libraries to facilitate—along with
print, still preferred by an impressive percentage of readers.   As
publishing options diversify and technology advances, everyone is
guessing how market shares and format preferences will evolve.   The
only sure bet—my opinion–is that consumers aren’t thinking “instead of”; they
want “also”.

Librarians are not just OK with publishing upheaval, we tend to be
energized by it, perhaps more comfortable with the changes than our customers
are.  When one works at a desk where anyone can approach at any time with
all sorts of questions, one learns to respond with “Hmmmm, let’s see…” rather
than “Oh, no!”

Other reasons for optimism:

The audio age:  Audiobooks are
burgeoning in popularity.  Library Journal reports a
confluence of factors– longer commuting times, expanding variety, diversity in
audio formats, convenience of mobile devices—driving the current audio boom. 
Audio Publishers Association observes that, “while other areas of the
publishing industry are shrinking, audiobooks are its fastest growing segment”
with, according to APA president Michelle Cobb, “an astonishing 83 percent
increase in audiobook titles produced just from 2011 to 2012”.  Yesterday,
a customer who’s an audio enthusiast and I were dropping names of career audiobook
readers, some of whose reputations rival those of film stars.   And you’d
be surprised how many celebrity actors (e.g., Bryan Cranston) also work as
audiobook narrators.

Giveaway alert (especially if a road trip is in your future):  The
library’s adult services department will offer a dozen unabridged CD audiobooks
as Facebook drawings and in-house “pop-up prizes” in the coming week.
Clamor for HP books

The “buzz” factor:  Physical books retain their
power to incite passion, acquisitiveness, and delight.   Stephen
Colbert’s advocacy for Edan Lepucki’s forthcoming
California will do
wonders for a debut author’s career—but Colbert also has a point to prove about
vendor responsibility toward customers.

At trade conferences like ALA and BEA, limited quantities of
pre-publication giveaway copies are scouted, coveted, and grabbed with alacrity
when the stacks materialize on the floor, signaling availability.  Last month at Book Expo, I thought I’d missed
getting the ARC of Deborah Harkness’ The Book of Life, third in her
trilogy.  Assuming this to be my due for
having once claimed I didn’t read vampire novels, I had resigned myself when a
colleague alerted me to the still-open autograph line and the last few copies,
after which I gleefully hugged the longed-for volume to my chest.

I hope no one saw that.

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