Thursday, February 8, 2018

Used Library Books

Libraries are going electronic these days, and a lot of used library books are available for cheap.

We are going to Alaska this summer and visiting the West Coast as well.  So we wanted some travel guides.  Yea, yea, I know, you can download these on your Kindle, smart phone or "pad device" - for a pretty hefty fee, I might add.   But there is something satisfying about holding a book in your hands - something that science fiction authors predicted decades ago, as the idea of e-readers is at least 100 years old.   Plus, the Fodor's guides have nice pull-out maps with them.

And no matter how great an e-reader is, having a large map to pull out, mark up, and study is something that GPS systems, phones, and pad devices will never replicate.   Looking at a map through a keyhole is not the same as looking at the whole thing.   You see things at a larger scale than you can't see up-close.   And zooming out with your GPS or phone isn't the same - you lose detail at the same time.

The nice thing is, you can buy these guides - as well as a host of other books - very lightly used, online, from book resellers, who often get them from local libraries.   Not only are they lightly used, they are often provided with laminated covers, making them more durable than the original.   On some of the Fodor's guides, the libraries added clear plastic pouches to hold the detachable maps on the rear cover.   All of that for less than half the price of a new copy.

Granted, some are a season or two out of date, but quite frankly, places don't change that quickly, and no, we are not interested in going to the trendiest restaurant or night spot (which the Fodor's guides seem to concentrate too much on).

Of course, this is a transitional thing.   Our local library is transitioning to e-books, and figuring out how to "loan them out" to people on their e-readers.   It is interesting to see this happen - why bother buying an e-book, when you can check it out, for free, for up to two weeks?   And it is also interesting that you can "join" your "local" library even if it is located in another State sometimes - or maybe belong to several libraries in several States - and be able to download content for free from them, online.  Free.

Obviously, some libraries may rein in who gets to be a member - requiring you show proof of residence or something.   It is a brave new world out there for libraries.   And what will they do with all that space when the stacks are gone?   And what will they do with library branches in general?   Will they disappear like Bank branches have in recent years?   Why go to the library when you can browse and download at home?  Will they turn into de facto homeless shelters (as our local one is rapidly becoming)?

Very, very interesting questions.  The e-reader and smart phone have "disrupted" our economy and are allowing people to "cocoon" as Faith Popcorn predicted.   Pretty soon, you'll never leave home!

Well, that scary future is slowly coming to be.   And in the meantime, a lot of used library books are out there, for sale, for cheap.   A good bargain, to get something you can hold in your hand for less money than you'd pay to download it onto your Kindle or smart phone!  And for a travel guide, which you might want for more than the two weeks the library allows you to keep it electronically, these are kind of a good deal.

Oh, yes.  You can re-sell them online once you are done with them.   Hard to do that with an e-book!

Maybe physical media isn't quite dead yet.