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Sunday, 28th February 2010

Libraries Lead the e-Book Revolution According to Australian Info Pro

by Philip Harvey

From the Column:

Digital is moving in, that's for sure. But will readers get what they want? I don't mean readers who ask for the latest blockbuster, but all of us who need those difficult-to-get books for study or personal interest, the ones Google says are not easily accessible. It is the same librarians who remind the digitising deliverers that inter-library loan can get the requested print version at next to no cost and in short time.

Far from sidelining academic and special collections, the digital libraries of the future make easy and free access to print-libraries even more of a priority: there is no way of predicting the price tag for that rare thesis or out-of-print title in its downloadable form. This is an issue that more academics and specialists need to be questioning now, especially as they are the ones often making the decisions about their libraries, and not the librarians.


Indeed, the fourth century shift from the scroll to the codex is being used as a comparison to the present transmogrification. I tend to believe that we are seeing the early technology of the e-book. In five years the e-book will look, feel, sound, smell and gesticulate in very different ways from its iPad and Kindle prototypes. iPad will look as cute as a cassette tape.

As usual, libraries are quietly ahead of everyone else. At universities there are library departments dedicated solely to the acquisition of e-materials for students and lecturers, while public libraries make e-books available and train the staff in their use, anticipating the demand before the e-books themselves are even on the market. But neither are libraries in a hurry to drown their books and make the sea change.

I imagine that the e-book and the book will thrive together. The real question is usability. Will people quite simply prefer one over the other? If everyone goes mad over the e-book then it will place publishers in a very interesting situation. It is in the lap of the gods and, like the laptop before it, the gods are fickle. The ancient technology of the codex book succeeded because it was practical and pleasurable.

Access the Complete History

Source: Eureka Street
Philip Harvey is President of the Australian and New Zealand Theological Library Association


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