Since early times, mankind has valued organization and preservation of its texts, both nonfiction and creative. Libraries date back to about 1200 B.C., and of course the most famous one is the Library of Alexandria.
The human race has moved away from scrolls and papyrus, and our libraries continue to evolve. You can still walk into your local library and be surrounded by towers of knowledge and imagination, bound books with colorful spines peeking at you from the shelves. In our most recent history, however, we’ve introduced a marvelous new invention: the e-library.
Across the nation, regular libraries are adding an electronic overdrive to their websites, allowing patrons to borrow e-books from the comfort of their own homes. What are the benefits? For starters, you don’t have to burn gas to drive to the library, which is both economical and environmentally friendly. The process is also faster. I don’t know about you, but when I go to my local library, I invariably get stuck behind someone applying for a card. I’ve been known to wait a full twenty minutes to get my book. Not so with the e-library. The book is either checked out or available, which you can see instantly. If it’s available, you pop it in your cart and download it. No waiting!
Returns, of course, are easier, too. Once you’re done with the book, you can return it instantly with a few keystrokes rather than have it linger around the house a few days until you get time to drive it to the drop box. This is especially good news for those popular new releases that have a queue lined up for them. Or what if you realize you’ve already read that book you just got? At the physical library, this means you wasted time and gas to drive there, check it out, bring it home, and then drive back to return it. With an e-book, you can check it right back in again. I follow a lot of series, and I’ve picked up the same book more than once by accident. (I adore J.D. Robb, but don’t ask me to keep her In Death titles straight and in order). The e-library cuts down on my frustration.
Are e-libraries the libraries of the future? Absolutely. Will they replace the physical library completely? Maybe, maybe not. Television didn’t replace radio; it just assigned it a different role and importance. Since libraries also function as meeting places for community events, lectures, etc., I think they’ll continue to exist for a long time to come, though they may change their focus.
In the meantime, I look forward to my library stocking more e-books for me to check out online.