What Price e-books?
There’s a lot of talk these days about the effect e-books are going to have or have already had on the publishing industry. My first book was an e-book and at present, I have one book that’s only available in digital format, but that doesn’t make me an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I have no idea how it will all turn out in the end but I do know that the world of publishing is changing and e-books seem to be driving that change.
I read something the other day that got me thinking about one of the side effects of digital books. This is from an author on the authors’ loop of one of my publishers (they were discussing how e-books would change book selling):
“…if we want bookstores to stay in business, not to mention libraries, then…”
Whoa, wait a minute. Libraries are in danger of closing too? Say it ain’t so, Horatio! That just can’t happen. A world without libraries would be a sad, sorry world indeed.
Libraries have played a major part in my life ever since my mom took me to the local library when I was around four years old. I was just learning to read and my family had just moved to a new house. Our church was about a half mile away, housed in an old stone mansion up on a hill on the outskirts of our subdivision. I’m not sure, but I think the owner of the mansion had at one time owned all the land where the new houses now stood. Anyway, that old mansion had a small stone building behind it and when the subdivision grew up around it some forward-thinking city official had the idea of turning that little building into a local public library. It was tiny, just one room, but every wall was lined with shelves and there were two rows of free-standing shelves running horizontally across the room. All of the shelves overflowed with books that could be had for free if you had a library card.
My mom, an avid reader with five children ranging in age from two to eight, had already instilled a love of reading in all of us and since we didn’t have much money, the library was a natural fit for her, and I imagine, something of a blessing too. Every couple of weeks on a Saturday, after she’d fed us breakfast and made sure we were all dressed presentably, she would round us up and with my baby brother in her arms, she’d shepherd us on foot to the library.
I don’t really remember what books I checked out but I do remember that I could only check out three at a time because of my age. And I remember every time we started the walk back home, I felt as if I’d just been given the greatest gift in the world. Free books to read and savor plus, there was the added bonus of my older sisters’ and brother’s books that I could enjoy too once they finished with them.
It was the beginning of a life-long love affair with the library. In fact, when I was about six, my sister and I got in a big fight about something and she told me I was adopted. I didn’t believe her at first but she convinced me by pointing out that I had blonde hair while she, my other sister, my younger brother and both my parents had dark hair. It didn’t matter that my older brother had light brown hair; I was what my mom termed a tow-head and my hair was much lighter than his. Well, that was all the evidence I needed and I decided I would run away. Where did I go? Why, to the library of course. I didn’t pack anything, I just took the screen out of the bedroom window, climbed out and started for my favorite place in the world, the small stone building that was home to all those marvelous books.
I’ve been in a lot of libraries over the years but that first one will always have a place in my heart. The first time my husband and I went home to Knoxville after living in Maine for eight years, we drove through the old subdivision and the little stone library was still there. It isn’t a library anymore but the building still stands—or stood at that time, I haven’t been back to check in a few years—and though it no longer houses books, it’s still the home of the some of the most wonderful memories of my childhood. I can’t imagine a world without libraries and whatever changes e-books bring to publishing, I hope and pray it won’t come to that.