Thursday, March 8, 2012

What will books look like ten years from now?

As librarians plan for the future, one of the big questions is where books are headed.  Sure, we still have print books. Hundreds of thousands of new titles are offered every year.  And now we have ebooks in several different formats.  Will the exclusive Amazon Kindle format win or the epub format used by other ereaders?  Or maybe something entirely different such as Blio.

With the limited funding of a small rural library, what percentage of the funding available should be invested in electronic formats?  Unlike print materials, electronic materials have no physical presence.  What does that mean for a library currently blessed with generous book and video donations?  Moving from acquiring physical books, magazines, videos, and musical CDs to a world where these things exist only in electronic format leaves the library without donations and with an acquisition budget that buys licenses rather than goods.  The assets last only as long as the license is renewed.  This can be a good thing when this year's formats become obsolete next year.  There's no need to dispose of old obsolete materials to make way for new.  However, it also means we are no longer building a collection that endures from year to year.

This is the sort of uncertainty that has led to the decision to ask ereader users to contribute to the licensing of ebooks at the library.  Just as those who buy and read print books have long contributed to the library collection through their donations of used materials, so those who buy and read electronic books can leverage their ebook budget by contributing to the membership of the library in the eIndiana Digital Consortium.