“What does change are the technologies by which information, knowledge and ideas are created and exchanged, and for many years the physical book was the mode for that. And it’s going to be for many, many years to come — it’s an enduring format.”
— Sandra Singh, Nov. 12, 2013
“The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
—Mark Twain, June 2, 1897)
One of the most common rumours that I find myself compelled to dispel — second only to the completely unfounded rumour that Elvis is employed at the library under an assumed name — relates to the imminent demise of the beloved book.
Although there are probably books being written on the subject as we speak, in researching this article, I turned first to Google. My search query, “is the book dead”, came up with over a billion results, with the definitive answer appearing in the third site listed, isthebookdead.com. The site consists of a single word written in bold white text on a striking red background: “No.”
There are many books that I wish were dead: The Complete Book of Ethnic Humour by Larry Wilde, Sex Lives of Animals Without Backbones by Haig Najarian, Knitting with Dog Hair by Kendall Crolius, and Lorraine Peterson’s Anyone Can Be Cool … But Awesome Takes Practice, to name a few.
In all seriousness, however, books are popular. So far this year, our own little library has checked out 81,968 printed books, compared with 2,896 ebooks and 25,698 DVDs. This works out to over 15 printed books checked out for every person in the town of Creston.
In a recent poll, 75 per cent of Americans stated that they preferred printed books to ebooks, and 87 per cent said that printed books are better for reading together with children. Worldwide, there were over two million new books published in print form in 2012. J.K. Rowling has earned over $1 billion through her books, while James Patterson raked in $94 million in 2012 alone.
Children and teens love books too. While ebook sales have flattened out in 2013, demand for printed children’s and teen books continues to grow. If you don’t believe the figures, drop by the library after a Thursday morning storytime and watch the tornado hit.
You might think that, as a librarian, I have a vested interest in defending books. On the contrary, a librarian’s stock in trade is not the books themselves, but knowledge and information. My job is to promote and, when necessary, defend equitable and democratic access to knowledge, regardless of its form.
But I do have a personal attachment to the printed page. From the fairy tales of my childhood to my graduate school course readings, books and stories have had an immeasurably profound impact on my life. Nowadays, sharing this love of books with my young son is one of the most important and enjoyable responsibilities that I have as a father.
Your Creston Valley Public Library card gives you access not only to the over 40,000 books in our collection, but to library collections across the province. Whether you are travelling and want to use the library in Vancouver or Kelowna, or need items brought in for you from other libraries, your library card is your passport to knowledge and information.
I appreciate all of your feedback and comments. Feel free to drop by and ask for me in person, or send me an email at email@example.com.
Aaron Francis is the chief librarian at the Creston Valley Public Library.