On the library and ebooks – A Working Library

Mandy Brown from A Working Library on the library and ebooks:

I wonder, then, if the promise of an ebook isn’t the book but the library. And if, in all our attention to a new device for reading, we’re neglecting methods for shelving. A search engine cannot compete with Warburg’s delicate, personal library. The metadata of a book extends beyond the keywords held between its covers to the many hands the text has passed through; it’s not enough just to scan every page. We need to also scan the conversations, the notes left in the margins, the stains from coffee, tea, and drink. We need to eavesdrop on the readers, without whom every book is mute. That is the promise I seek.

The one thing I’ll miss about real books if and when the conversion to ebooks are complete: the smell. I love the smell of a new novel, the papers clean and fresh against my fingers, the whiff of the bookstore on the cover (I swear, the ones from second-hand bookstores smell differently from the ones I buy in Borders). I know I’m being unnecessarily nostalgic … no, wait. The one thing I won’t miss about books is the lack of a search engine. Mandy’s assertion about losing the metadata of touch and feel and smell is correct, but it’s a small price to pay for never having to thumb through an index ever again.

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