by Courtney Butler, Head Editor, INALJ Idaho
Phasing Out Formats
For my first entry I’d like to talk about books. In particular, I’d like to talk about the idea that printed materials are becoming outdated and should be phased out in the face of burgeoning technology.
I’ll start out by saying that e-books and all that newfangled technology is great. Really, it is. It has transformed reading and made it a much more convenient hobby for many people, which is awesome. But benefits of technology aside, I’m still very pro-print. The feel, the smell, the familiarity – I love printed books. They’re like old friends, and I doubt technology will ever be able to replace them for me. However, I realize there should be (and are) even better reasons for keeping them around.
A couple of months ago, a professor pointed me to a very interesting and impassioned argument for why print materials are still very important in a post titled “Across the Digital Divide” by Seanan McGuire. The post is a couple of years old now, but I think it still raises some very relevant points. For one, the most unfortunate characteristic of technology is that it is relatively expensive, even the cheap technology. For those that live in poverty and the full 20% of the nation that does not have access to the internet, this means no access to new published materials that are not available in print. Obviously public libraries can and do help narrow this gap, but it has been quite the difficult process. Between monopolies, expiration policies, leasing/owning controversies, and more, public libraries have had their hands full trying to provide ever increasingly popular technology. I love the initiative Kansas has taken, including its Facebook campaign against the “Big 6” publishers. However, even if e-book publishers suddenly begin implementing fair policies across the board, there is still the problem that there are huge discrepancies in funding from library to library, generally based on the affluence of the library’s surrounding community. Some libraries are simply unable to keep up with the technological curb.
Mcguire recalls living in extreme poverty as a child and escaping into books as her best method of coping; she can’t imagine what it would have been like without them. Unsurprisingly, I had an emotional response to her frustrations. I love printed books to begin with, and I don’t currently own any sort of e-reader technology by choice. However, I also have a soft place in my heart for those who don’t get to make that choice. It may have something to do with my sense of duty as a librarian, but it makes me very sad and a little angry to think of purposefully (or thoughtlessly) limiting access to the wonderful world of books. I’m quite certain that print will someday become antiquated, if not scrapped altogether. However, despite the hype that always surrounds new technologies, the important thing authors, publishers, distributors, and all those who claim printed books have become obsolete need to keep in mind is that there are a large number of readers who not only want print publishing but actually still need it – at least for awhile.