Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book It!

You know what's weird? Libraries.

Think about it. There's a big building filled with books, and you can go there and take a big stack of them for a few weeks. You don't have to pay by the book. There's no subscription fee. Aside from trivial fee taken out of your taxes and the occasional late fine, it costs you nothing.

It's an idea that stretches across time and space. If there's a society that's developed enough to allow time for reading and writing, there's probably a library. Most cities and towns have public libraries, and s****ls and some businesses are expected to have smaller libraries, as well. When was the first library created? I have no idea. Shortly after the invention of the movable type, maybe? Probably before that. Were there libraries of handwritten books? I bet so, though not in the same sense as the modern public library.

Whatever the case, we've reached a stage where libraries are accepted and taken for granted. Most people tend to think of libraries as always having been a part of the world. When an author writes a book, do they curse libraries for cutting into their sales? Maybe privately, but I've never heard an author give a lecture, or read an interview in which an author has issued such a complaint. Really, though, it must make a severe impact. I checked out seven books from the library today. If those weren't free, there's no chance I would've done that. I simply wouldn't read these books, but I would still have the desire to read something, so maybe I would've purchased one or two books. As it is, someone is gaining a reader and missing a sale.

As stated, we accept that books are handed out to the world for free. Readers, authors, publishers - no one really questions it or speaks out against it. Think, though, of what it would be like if other media were handled this way. Imagine walking into your local Blockbuster and being able to take anything you want for free, and if they don't have the movie you want, you can add your name to a list and it will be ordered for you from another branch as soon as possible. Imagine getting music and games the same way. People would go nuts!

Remember Napster? The debates (and the lawsuits) over the legality and ethics of taking music for free are still going strong a decade later. No one wants to create art without compensation, it seems. Of course, it is a little different - libraries have to first purchase books before publicly lending them, so there is a sale, first. Many libraries also loan movies and music, but the selection is usually limited enough that they don't pose a significant threat to record shops and video stores.

What about video rentals, though? This is getting longer than I hoped it would, so you'll have to wait until PART TWO to find out.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's thrilling conclusion.


Anonymous said...

What worries me is that some politician will propose budget cuts that will eliminate or greatly reduce more public library funding. It's already happened in large industrial cities, forcing many libraries to close.

I like the tactile experiences I get from holding, and reading ink on paper. Long live libraries, magazines, and newspapers!

nicole. said...

oh gee i hope this story ends with someone dying.

Jake said...

It does! You! You'll die of boredom, 'cause I don't know where I'm going with this, and the whole thing will turn out directionless and poorly written, and become a self-referential mess about the nature of blogging, as my blogs always do!

nicole. said...

sounds just as good.

Jaime said...

That first comment sounds like something I'd write, minus the phrase "large industrial cities."