In the February 15, 2016 issue of Publishers Weekly, I read a short piece entitled, “Librarians: Stop the Book Shaming.” The author, Brian Kenney, maintains that librarians have increasingly become “like shame filled smokers standing outside of office buildings – apart, a little embarrassed and slightly defensive.” In a time when the media tells us more technology is better, and that traditional print books will be replaced by downloads in the form of ebooks and audiobooks, some librarians may feel it’s become old fashioned to sing the praises of traditional paper books. Yet, I find that most of our patrons still prefer the traditional book. This is not to say that ebooks and audiobooks are not popular – they are, especially for those who are frequent travelers. No one can dismiss the convenience of having multiple books, magazines, and newspapers loaded onto one small device. Still, most of our patrons seem happy to leave with several books in their book bags. Maybe they’ve got a fully loaded Kindle as well, but they still love traditional books.
Recent statistics show that there is a growing trend back to printed materials - even independent bookstores are making a comeback! According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of member independent bookstores has increased more than 20 percent since the depths of the recession, from 1,651 in 2009, to 2,094 in 2014. A report in February 2015 showed that the number of ABA member independent bookstores had increased 27% since 2009. E-book sales are actually now on the decline, while the sale of physical books is on the rise. To what do we attribute this trend? While many readers love the feel, convenience, and dare I say, the scent, of printed books, another reason for the uptick in the popularity of independent bookstores, appears to be the need for human connection. In an age when so many interactions have become automated, people crave more face to face interaction with other people. Many of our patrons enjoy the library as a destination place – a place to go and be with other people - have a chat, sit in our café area with a cup of coffee, and check out a book (or few) that’s been recommended by a live person! Independent bookstores and public libraries have much in common, the big difference being that at the library, the only reason to open your wallet is to take out your library card!
Which do you prefer? Books, ebooks, audio books? Do you like downloads or do you prefer the physical object? Do you like coming to the library just to be among other humans? All of these choices are yours at the library. Come in and check out some materials, or go online from our website and download materials onto your device. Whatever you choose – keep reading! An educated and informed populace engaged in civil discourse (even when we disagree) is the backbone of our democratic society. The public library, with its free access to both, is still the best place to continue your lifelong learning!
Our brand is books!