Books, E-books, and the Four Crystal Balls

What is the future of the book?  The answer is perhaps not as straight-forward or predictable as you might think.  Many people think that the future is that books will all move online and print will become an outdated format.  Indeed, there may be a groupthink consensus forming around this idea of the death of print.  However, futurists like to think in terms of scenarios — potential outcomes, representing different possible tracks into the future.

The Association of College and Research Libraries recently published a document that lays out four possible futures for books.  The four scenarios:

  1. e-books overwhelm the printed book and make them obsolete
  2. readers tire of e-books and they are seen as a fad while printed books continue to flourish
  3. printed books carve out a particular niche and survive in an economy dominated by e-books
  4. both printed and e-books coexist and are seen to have equal importance

Libraries have long been synonymous with books, and if you worry about what books will look like in 20 years, library planners worry a whole lot more.  In the short term, we keep our ears to the ground and try to understand how our readers are reading.  We tend to hedge our bets by continuing to support printed books while seeking ways to add e-books to the mix.  The broader economies of book publishing and consumer behaviors will dictate the future of the book.

At Saint Rose, The Neil Hellman Library has approximately 200,000 printed, bound volumes on its shelves.  We gauge use by counting the number of times someone checks out a book — and the trendline here (and nationally) is in sharp decline.  We also provide access to some 90,000 e-books.   The use of e-books is on the rise, but we do not have a long history to judge their persistence.  Bottom line: stay tuned!

Here are some useful links to book resources from the Library:

What do you think?

-Written by Peter Koonz and NOT the library building itself.

What do you think?