Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Escape Velocity of Ebooks

I tend to share my viewing and reading recommendations passively through my delicious feed or actively through my Twitter feed, but today I’m going to make an exception. 

I think this talk by James Bridle of BookTwo does a very good job of revealing some important insights about the nature of book or specifically, on the natures of texts. It’s called Everything is the same only different  and the link will take you to the video and a brief outline summary for those who don't want to commit the 20 minutes it takes to watch it. I won’t spoil it for you, but James gives the best response I’ve seen to the surprisingly common complaint that ebooks just don’t smell like regular books

One the reasons why I am fond of Bridle’s work is that his thinking isn’t outlandish and speculative; it’s grounded in the present and the past. When he starts speaking about the velocity of books (at the 5:25 mark), he begins by introducing the viewer to Penguin Specials - a series of shorter books grounded in the issues of the day. 

There has always been interest in having books available to help the reader make sense of the latest chaos that has descended on her world. And I heartily endorse Bridle’s assertion that it not that ebooks has reduced our capacity to read long texts - we have always have had difficulty finishing long books. It’s just that now, companies such as Amazon have the data gleaned from Kindles that backs up and betrays this once secret shame.

As a personal interjection, I would like to point out that these days, this rapid-response market isn’t being served by print books publishers but through print magazines publishers instead. Go to the magazine section in your local grocery store and you’ll see lots of special commemorative issues, mini-cookbooks, and fairly up to date guides for buying technology or to help you buy Apps. It’s not surprising that the first book that I know of about the Occupy Movement is being published by YES! Magazine

While I can buy “This Changes Everything” for my library, I cannot buy Summer of Unrest: Kettled Youth for those trying to make sense of the UK students riots of 2010 and that is recommended by Bridle in his talk.

At least I don’t think I can. But even if I’m able to buy a DRM-free copy that the publisher will let me lend of an unlimited number of times, where would I put my library’s copy of Summer of Unrest? 

Which brings me to a topic that I think has not been explored enough in libraryland: What will be the library’s platform for ebooks? 

The time to address this thorny question is fast approaching. The velocity of books requires it.

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