As people purchase textbooks, select leisure reading or even decide how they will read magazines and newspapers, the debate between tablets, such as Amazon’s Kindle, Apple’s iPad or the Barnes & Noble Nook, and traditional paper and ink publications continues. The e-book side argues for the convenience factor, while the print version argues readers can not beat the physical book-in-your-hand feeling.
Regardless, it is undeniable that publishers are beginning to produce more and more digital versions of their books and publications. Digital books can be cheaper and use fewer physical resources to publish on an e-format. But what does this mean for the future of print books?
For Sarah Wilson, store manager at The Dusty Bookshelf, the key is balance. She is optimistic that there will always be a market for the printed word. The Dusty Bookshelf has been fortunate not to experience many negative impacts of the rise in e-book consumption, Wilson said.
The store utilizes the Internet in another way, too. It sells books online, a practice that helps reduce the effects of the rise in popularity of e-books, Wilson said. The Dusty Bookshelf continues to sell specialty items, like first editions and books signed by the author. Wilson believes that a market will always exist for items like these.
“There will always be those people out there looking for that one special book,” she said.
Community support is also an important reason for the shop’s endurance, Wilson said.
The future of e-books is bright, but it is still distant, said Jason Coleman, undergraduate and community services librarian at Hale Library. It will be 10 to 20 years before most literature will be accessible through e-books, Coleman said.
“As the population ages, people become more comfortable with using e-readers and their improved quality and continued decreased price,” he said. "It’s going to happen."
This transition could present changes for the K-State Libraries, according to Coleman. If e-books were to make print materials obsolete, many of the books currently in the library would have to be moved to an outside storage area. The archives would naturally remain in Hale Library to preserve school records and documents. The space in the library, which is extensive, would be repurposed. Many of the rooms would probably become study rooms or teaching spaces.
“We try to make the spaces, when we repurpose them, as flexible as possible,” Coleman said.
According to Coleman, eliminating print books could lead to issues in staffing. Library science courses are already changing to reflect the new demands of the position, and librarians in the future may begin to focus more on helping students effectively find their research material and how to use it successfully, instead of directing them to a print book in the stacks.
Jo Budler, librarian at the State Library of Kansas and 2013 librarian of the year, believes the printed word will never be completely eliminated. She said that e-books are simply another medium to add to the list.
“Just as books on CD or on tape did not mean the demise of the paperbound book, neither will e-books or e-readers,” Budler said.
The State Library of Kansas has begun adapting to the rise in demand for e-books. The library has already made more than 30,000 titles available for Kansans to borrow online. These books can be checked out to read on a variety of tablets, but some books may never be available as e-books, Budler said.
“But as long as there are people who do not own e-readers or who prefer the printed word, libraries will continue to offer books in paperbound format,” she said. “Libraries are the access point.”