Erasing the Boundaries

Today’s New York Times article on e-books in libraries is quite interesting (the article is titled “Libraries Reach Out, Online” but I don’t intend to link to a website demanding a login and password so you’ll have to find it yourself). In summary, the article notes that the New York Public Library has 3000 electronic books. It also mentions the King County Library System (yay) — they have 8500 e-books and as of November, 634 e-audiobooks. I will spend as little time as possible stating the obvious benefits: immediate gratification, and when your time is up, your authorization to access to the book is simply removed. And for you germ-a-phobes — yes, someone may have taken that e-book into the bathroom with them, but you will never need to fear that germs have followed the book back to the library and contaminated all the other e-books. (Oh. Is that just me?)

I stumbled across the KCLS e-book system about a year ago I think, and after a rather steep and flailing learning curve (installing and configuring a new version of Adobe Reader), I was finally on my way. I “borrowed” a few books, but I suspect that I’ll always be one of those readers who finds it easier to read a paper book than an electronic one. However, the lure is there: I was extremely turned on by the fact that I didn’t have to drive to the library to get the book. And I knew that if I ever went on one of those “restful” vacations I keep promising myself, I’d be able to load up the laptop with a dozen novels, instead of having to carry around a lot of potentially dead weight.

But I digress. The point is this NY Times article, and how my imagination has been captured by it. Right now, there’s a reasonably painless way for me to get books from other libraries through inter-library loan. I wonder if in the near future, I’m going to see the same thing for e-books? With the internet at my fingertips and living in my house, I don’t want to be restricted to the 8500 e-books at KCLS. Hell, I don’t even want to be restricted by this country. I want to know what they have at the Sydney Library in Australia.

I know there are already “internet libraries” out there offering classic titles in public domain. But I think the time is right for libraries to form a network offering e-books to a wider audience (Libraries of the world, Unite!!), and when that time happens, well, someone just point me to the line for membership cards. The future is bright. But what am I doing here? There’s an electronic copy of Coraline by Neil Gaiman — a book I’ve been meaning to read for a while — waiting for me right here, right now, on my laptop. RIGHT HERE. RIGHT NOW.

How hot is that?

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