evolution of readers

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Recently I had a lovely cup of coffee with one of my librarian mentors and we were speaking about the evolution of readers and reading. In today’s world, when our customers experience one-click shopping and instant downloads, where is the library’s place? And how quickly can we catch up? Even the most dedicated library users are now reading electronically too, experiencing the thrill of the “itchy Kindle finger:” the moment when you finish the last chapter of a fantastic book in a series (say Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series) and can, with a mere touch of a finger, purchase and begin reading the next book within minutes.

{Please also understand that I will argue forever that libraries are more than just books, digital or physical, that they are about people making connections in community and represent some of the highest values of our society and culture.}
~mr. handsome’s new Steve Maddens~

When the same reader visits our state’s download library and discovers that the book she wants has a long waiting list or isn’t available at the moment… Is she likely to put herself on the waiting list of 12?

I’d also like to know why someone hasn’t invented a Netflix or Audible-inspired model for e-books. Unlimited access to e-books, loaned one at a time, or alternatively, a one credit per month model that would allow me to purchase an e-book with my credits. And while we are speaking of e-books: if I purchase an e-book, can someone explain to me WHY I CAN’T LEND IT TO WHOMEVER I PLEASE? It’s mine, yes? Purchased with  my very own dollars. Publishers and authors: how is this any different than lending my paper copy to a friend with whom I would like to share the book?

So I’ll leave you with this: Our readers are evolving, whether we (librarians, publishers, authors) like it or not. Take three young people I know, Mr. Handsome and his two friends, teenagers who are our reading legacy. One of them snatched up a Kindle edition of Fangirl when it was on sale for $1.99, smart boy that he is, who listens to his personal librarian. So now we have one reader who has a Kindle copy of Fangirl, plus two readers who have already read it but who want to share in a re-reading of this excellent book with their friend. Using the one Kindle account (on three different devices), all three readers are able to co-read and leave comments and highlights in the text of their favorite passages. Social and asynchronous reading! I’m pretty sure this is not the business model Amazon would prefer, but these clever readers are meeting their own needs.

Another picture for you of our reading legacy: two teenagers who stay up until 1 a.m. reading aloud from The Fault In Our Stars , via FaceTime.

The librarian’s heart goes pitterpat.

~Happy New Year~


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