A majority of college library directors would be in favor of removing print books from libraries if they had reliable, digital access to their books, according to a new study by research service Ithaka S+R detailed in an April 4 article from Inside Higher Ed. But libraries shouldn’t be so willing to give up their print books just yet.
The reasoning behind giving up traditional books for their electronic, two-dimensional brothers is that it is potentially more cost-effective and space-saving.
While most librarians were supportive of giving up printed journals and books for their electronic counterparts, there was still a concern as to how to execute such a plan and if it would really be cost-effective.
First, librarians should consider that electronic books might not be truly cost-effective in the future. While we are moving toward an e-book age, that doesn’t make it any cheaper to buy and to keep books.
According to a March 2010 article from Gizmodo, when one buys an e-book, one essentially pays more to a publisher and less to the actual author because the cost of printing, storing and shipping is out. With this factor gone, the bookseller cannot charge as much, and in return the publishers get more money while the author’s pay is cut.
But not all authors are willing to have their books published electronically. Also, there is no guarantee that these books will continue to be stored digitally. The logistics of how one will pay for the texts is still undetermined. One may end up paying for a book by limited-time subscription, pay-per-view or outright purchase.
So far, there has been no go-ahead on the Google Books project because of the potential monopoly the company would have on millions of books, especially books that do not have a clear copyright. The existence of a massive digital library isn’t here yet, and while we may be moving that direction, we can’t jump the gun.
A majority of librarians in the survey said they would be willing to move their books if print preservation and digital access were properly managed. That would be fabulous, except that according to the article, when books were attempted to be transferred to schools across the nation, librarians were met with protests from both students and professors.
Issues with electronic books only are that they don’t support typical learning practices such as highlighting, writing in margins, and bookmarking passages. The books are also bound to one device and not easily lendable. There also is an impersonal relationship between a screen and a student that only tangible books can overcome.
While it may be more environmentally friendly and potentially more cost-efficient, it is too early to move books and journals off campus. Students and faculty should be proactive in their library’s decisions.
If we don’t take a stand, we will lose the right to have an opinion on whether we have printed books.
Bailey McGowan is a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Burkburnett.