Popped in to the British Library for a coffee yesterday en route to a meeting. It’s handily placed next to Kings Cross Station and I had only been there once before when I gave a talk on the likely impact of the DEAct on public intermediaries such as libraries and universities.
I was very pleasantly surprised with the place but it did make me think what will happen when all books are available electronically? In theory people will have much less reason to visit a library, other than for a quick coffee and, in the case of the British library to view some “ancient treasures”. This potentially must go down as a great source of sadness.
I’m probably not a good example though since I don’t usually like to borrow books from a library or anywhere else. This is because, for those of you unfamiliar with the system, you have to give them back. I’m sorry but online doesn’t cut it for me either. I have to have bookcase lined walls where I can identify old favourites by the colour of the spine. I have kindle on my iPad but have only ever downloaded free, “out of copyright” books – Darwin, Marx, Plato et al. Good stuff I know but they are a better read on paper.
So how will our behaviour towards books change when everything is online? Will an online librarian ask you to turn the music down, or the TV? Ssshhh for kindle’s sake. Or am I barking up the wrong tree here?