On The Digital Pages of E-books

The evolution of gaining knowledge has been subtle. A century ago, our main medium of information were print sources like books. When the computer came into mainstream it not only provided a method for communication, but also quicker access to information. While books continued to provide information in between their thick covers, the computer became faster and more desirable to many. While more and more people began to be receptive to information through the Internet, many slowly lost interest in reading paper bound books and chose the quicker alternative.   Now, books may become less and less common as the digital age takes over with e-books. Maybe books will only become a memory in the near future, as technology takes over.

Imagine walking into an Apple store-like structure in order to gain knowledge. Picture rows and rows of people staring at computers, monitors and screens. Now, see yourself entering this area for information and calling it your library.

Although what I am claiming may seem outrageous to some extent, it has already commenced, and to some this might have already been predictable, considering the prevalence of nooks and kindles.

From USA Today, Paul Weber wrote an article called the “Texas library offers glimpse of bookless future” to show San Antonio’s BiblioTech, the nation’s first bookless public library.

Whether this idea may seem great or disastrous for the future, we must take into consideration the location.

Bookless libraries have been proposed before. In both Newport Beach, California, and Tucson, Arizona, proposals for bookless libraries were brought up in the past decade and shot down because the community wanted the ability to have normal books be available in their libraries. Perhaps both cities decided to maintain their libraries because their current libraries are often filled and the money to change a library will outweigh the benefit.

On the other hand, cities such as San Antonio will benefit more with a change toward bookless libraries because this new technology is desirable to those who would usually not pick up books to read. Therefore, e-books are better than no books on the individual level. According to Weber, “San Antonio is the nation’s seventh-largest city but ranks 60th in literacy. Back in the early 2000s, community leaders in BiblioTech’s neighborhood of low-income apartments and thrift stores railed about not even having a nearby bookstore,” said Laura Cole, BiblioTech’s project coordinator. “A decade later,” Cole said, “most families in the area still don’t have Wi-Fi.” Despite past conditions in terms of access to books, education looks brighter to the community in San Antonio because more and more people are going to BiblioTech and using these resources.  It is quite amazing how just the change in format from books to e-books can allure such a large group of people who would normally turn a blind eye to the old paperback books.

The e-books are in good use, and the BiblioTech, overall, is more cost efficient than a regular library. The main source of information are in e-books that BibiloTech has in stock: “BiblioTech contains 10,000-title digital collection for the same price as physical copies, but the county saved millions on architecture because the building’s design didn’t need to accommodate printed books.” And although  many believe that our communities are already established and do not need to make this change, we should take the step forward because e-books and technology is our future so why not start investing in it now, rather than waste precious paper resources and the time for librarians to shelve the books.

The idea of a bookless library is definitely not as bad as it may seem. Last year, I would have laughed at the idea of reading from an e-book, but now I use an e-book for both chemistry and biology because this is the cheaper alternative and what is available for me.

The rise of a great technological era of knowledge is being formed, and quickly, if I must say so myself, and e-books are definitely going to be a part of our future. And although we have been accustomed to the books and their power, whether through engaging stories found in novels, poems in anthologies, or school textbooks, we might surprise ourselves once we try an e-book in a bookless library.

Shannon Lee is a first-year biological science major.  She can be reached at shannoml@uci.edu