Thursday, 17 March 2011
My favourite room
In a world where more and more, we have to consider how we are affecting our environment, is there a place for books? Is that a gasp I hear? Or a cry of indignation? Has this woman gone mad? Surely, as a writer, she's shooting herself in the foot to suggest that there may be no place for books. Let me explain what I mean and where this thought process began.
Like many people, my husband and I occasionally have discussions about what we'd like to have in our lives - new car, holiday to this place or that, dream home, etc, and so on. At the weekend, we were talking about what rooms we would include in a house if we could afford to build one. Almost my first thought was 'a library'. A library with lots of shelves, and a high ceiling, and a ladder on wheels, and big comfortable leather chairs, and a view of the garden and... I'll stop there but you get the gist. My husband then posed a question that stopped my gallop of thought completely. Will there be libraries in the future?
I have to admit that my first reaction was outrage. Of course there will be libraries in the future. I love books. My children love books. How could he consider the absence of libraries? Then I calmed down and began to look at the suggestion from his point of view.
My husband is a writer like me and he reads avidly but whereas I revel in the feel of an actual book, he does the majority of his reading on his phone through a e-reader application. I have something similar on my own phone and have downloaded several classic novels to read while I'm in the car (I'm currently reading 'The Moonstone' by Wilkie Collins). Now I have to admit that I have a natural aversion to and suspicion of having all nature of information simply held online and accessible through a computer or other device. I worry that if the world goes bottom over the proverbial, we could lose so much valuable literature that we could never retrieve again. I also love the feel of a book in my hands. Curling up in a chair to read always seems a luxurious experience to me. Having said that, we know that deforestation is causes major problems for our planet's health for varying reasons that I won't go into now (I'm sure you know all about that already) so reading a book online is environmentally a better solution. We still have all these books though so even if we stopped producing physical books tomorrow, there would be a need to store them somewhere (unless we decided to mulch them all for fertiliser - that thought actually brought tears to my eyes).
So returning to my husband's question - will there be libraries (in the home and publicly) in the future? - I think the answer is yes but that they will be very different to what we consider a library to be nowadays. I don't think that public libraries will simply be filled with books and a small section of DVDs and CDs. I think that instead they will become mixed media centres with e-readers on hand or to hire, and the ability to borrow an e-book file. The same will apply to the films and music you can currently borrow from them. The other side to the coin, bookstores will most likely die out in their sole form and again become mixed media, merging with music and film stores.
At home, although many of us will still have our shelves of books, our libraries will merge with our offices/computer rooms and the majority of our reading matter will shift from paper to e-book. It may not be the same as my dream picture of a library but I suppose I can as easily curl up with an e-reader as I can with a book, as long as I have that comfy chair and the view of the garden.