The future of libraries and book stores

As technology grows every day, it ever so slowly seeps into the world of literature. Just four years ago if e-books were thought of at all they were considered a joke. Used only by a handful of people, they were quickly dismissed by the vast majority. Not caring about the lack of an apparent market or the other dedicated e-ink e-readers already on the market, Amazon released its first generation Kindle. Amazon immediately gave its device a competitive edge, when they managed to ensure the device had a contract free wireless connection to the internet. The ability to download books directly to your Kindle meant that you had the first e-reader that did not have to be tethered to a computer.

Despite these advances the Kindle was still considered a gimmick that would never usurp tried and true books. Now as soon as I picked up that first generation Kindle, I got it. I was hooked from the very first moment and I have since built up quite an extensive library of Kindle e-books. I currently have a third generation Kindle, which still has the free wireless connection. I have not purchased a traditional book for myself since that time. In fact, since I bought my first Kindle I have only purchased hardcover books for my wife, who was, at the time, a book aficionado. She was actively against the Kindle at first, refusing to relinquish the feel of a book under her fingers. But with the third generation device she became hooked. It also helped that she could not only carry her whole library with her but an entire bookstore as well. As I have, I believe she has stopped going to bookstores altogether, in favor of the omnipresent Kindle bookstore.

Two different programs have been launched to help turn the Kindle into a library as well as a book store. The first was a straight forward announcement back in September of 2011, which stated that libraries would be able to lend out e-books in Kindle format. Now I have yet to use this feature, because I haven’t had a need to visit my local library let alone borrow anything from the library. I have a terrible memory for due dates so I tended to finance libraries. But this option is available for Kindle users. The other program is one of Amazon’s own creation, the Kindle Owners Lending Library. This program allows Amazon Prime customers to borrow up to one book per month for free and with no due dates.

Now as time goes on, what will happen to our libraries and our book stores? Will these physical buildings be phased out altogether? Will research move from silent halls of an old library to the digital stacks of the internet? With each passing year, month, even each day, new advances are made and new ways of thinking are installed upon the next generation. Maybe when they come of age they will close those silent stacks from lack of use as they become part of our history.