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Neil Gaiman On Why Libraries Are the Gates to the Future

Soulskill posted 1 year,6 days | from the books-are-bigger-on-the-inside dept.

Books 149

Neil Gaiman spoke Monday for the Reading Agency's annual lecture series. His talk centered on the importance of libraries and of reading for pleasure. His talk was transcribed and posted by The Guardian. Quoting: "Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it's a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it's hard, because someone's in trouble and you have to know how it's all going to end that's a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you're on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. ... The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them. I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children. Every now and again it becomes fashionable among some adults to point at a subset of children's books, a genre, perhaps, or an author, and to declare them bad books, books that children should be stopped from reading. ... It's tosh. It's snobbery and it's foolishness. There are no bad authors for children, that children like and want to read and seek out, because every child is different. They can find the stories they need to, and they bring themselves to stories. A hackneyed, worn-out idea isn't hackneyed and worn out to them. This is the first time the child has encountered it. Do not discourage children from reading because you feel they are reading the wrong thing. Fiction you do not like is a route to other books you may prefer. And not everyone has the same taste as you."

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I am One Who Fiddles! (-1, Offtopic)

AlphaWoIf_HK (3042365) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141231)

Don't read this... it is a curse...

In 1994, an adventurous young lad named Winston was frolicking about in his neighborhood and eventually discovered an ominous-looking building. Winston, being the fearless young lad that he was, decided to investigate the building with the hope that he'd discover something new and exciting all by himself. After wandering around the building for a period of time no longer than a few minutes, Winston came across an unblocked entrance that lead into a dark room; from his position, he could see that a small area in the middle of the room was illuminated by some sort of spotlight. Winston, feeling as if he was being drawn into the building, decided to head inside to see what this mysterious place had to offer.

Winston immediately began regretting his decision to enter the building as soon as he noticed numerous shady individuals surrounding the spotlight he had seen previously. In the spotlight, Winston saw a naked little boy that looked exactly like him; curious, he slowly approached the light. By the time Winston was no more than twenty feet away from his lookalike, he could tell that the boy in the spotlight did indeed look exactly like himself, and that the spotlight boy had his precious ass pointed up in the air. At this point, Winston noticed that had no body, and from that he surmised that the boy who resided in the middle of the spotlight was no imposter, but he himself!

Winston, now terror-struck, wondered how he could be viewing events while outside of his body, as if he were a ghost. The boy, being quite bright, quickly figured out that he was no ghost, but something along the lines of a disembodied perspective; an observer. Not only was Winston now little more than a perspective, but he could somehow feel what his body was experiencing. As question after question surfaced in Winston's mind, an entity that would make him dread his vacuous decision to enter this building appeared right behind his real body's bootyass. "What is that!?" Winston screamed to himself. Winston stared intently and discerned the entity's true nature; it was an ET doll, and it was moving of its own accord! Even a cursory glance of this enigmatic entity would be enough to tell one that it was malevolent by its very nature, and Winston, being a little boy, became absolutely terrified at the mere sight of it...

The misfortunate young boy then noticed that the shady individuals he'd took notice of when he entered the building began whispering to one another. "It's beginning. I can't wait!" said one shadowy figure. "A grand experiment is about to unfold; an experiment unlike any the world has ever seen before!" said another. Every last one of the shady figures were standing outside of the spotlight and were surrounding it, as if they were an audience to some event that was about to take place. The whispers came to a sudden halt when the ET doll began to move closer and closer to Winston's prized bootyass. It was at this point that poor little Winston realized that an experiment was taking place in this building, and that he was the test subject!

The ET doll drew near Winston's vulnerable little ass and stuck its hand up in the air. Winston, at this point, had already succumbed to trepidation, but he still attempted to stop the malicious entity from taking any further actions. Unfortunately, Winston, being a mere observer, could do nothing but watch in horror as the experiment unfolded before his very eyes! The ET doll began screaming "Ba la la la leh leh leh!" repeatedly, and not long after that was when it began to conduct the much-anticipated experiment. The malicious entity then began jabbing its hand into Winston's asshole while repeating that same phrase again and again. What followed was not pain, but excruciating ass tickle!

"It tickles! It tickles horribly!" Winston screamed in his mind. Winston tried his utmost to stop the evil doll from harming him any further, but he could not move a single cheek! The speed of the ET doll's movements quickly became faster than even the speed of light, and similarly, the tickle being inflicted upon Winston's tortured bootyass became increasingly intense! The tortured boy screamed internally again and again, but it was to no avail; the ET doll merely laughed as it continued jabbing Winston's ass with its creepy hand. Winston's fragile mind had been shattered the moment the ET doll laid its hands on his most prized possession...

Even the most foolish individual would have been able to tell that no entity in existence, no matter how powerful, could have withstood the suffering that Winston was going through and emerge unscathed. Indeed, the tickle being inflicted upon Winston's precious ass was so intense that even an eternity of painful torture would be preferable to experiencing what he was going through for any amount of time. So, then... what became of little Winston? Well, let's just say the boy that was once known as Winston effectively no longer exists.

Now that you have read even a single word of this, you will be lured into a mysterious building and will become the subject of a grand experiment not unlike the one that Winston found himself the subject of! To prevent that from happening, you must copy this entire story and post it as a comment three times.

What does the OP suffer from? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141505)

Does anyone here have some training in psychiatry (or at least a passing acquaintance with the field) and would be willing to venture a diagnosis for what psychosis Alphawolf_HK is suffering from? He is generally one of the most active contributors to Slashdot, submitting articles and making reasonably well-argued comments. From time to time, however, he goes off the rails and posts these strange stories about children being violated by objects inserted into their anuses, or this kind of comment [slashdot.org] about violating others (sometimes they are posted as AC, but one can still tell they are Alphawolf_HK's work because of their distinct wording).

Is this garden-variety schizophrenia or some other syndrome?

Re:What does the OP suffer from? (2)

daniel.garcia.romero (2755603) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141557)

Is this garden-variety schizophrenia or some other syndrome?

He is just an assficionado.

Re:What does the OP suffer from? (1)

Cryacin (657549) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142233)

No, he's just nuts. That'll be $250 please.

Re:What does the OP suffer from? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142291)

Trollitis.

Why Slashdot is the Gate to the Future (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141235)

Nuff said.

Books perhaps... (4, Insightful)

Karmashock (2415832) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141253)

Traditional libraries are not the future. The dead tree archives will here after be a curiosity.

That said, repositories of books and stories etc will remain very important. They will however be increasingly a digital experience.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141299)

Library - A large building filled with layered paper. Believed to be an early attempt at carbon sequestration, these papers were covered with words, perhaps in an attempt to discourage people from burning them and thus releasing the carbon.

Re:Books perhaps... (-1, Flamebait)

Chrisq (894406) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141327)

these papers were covered with words, perhaps in an attempt to discourage people from burning them and thus releasing the carbon.

Note - it didn't work for the muzzys

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141431)

The dead tree archives will here after be a curiosity.

Sure, this will happen right after the paperless office.

Re:Books perhaps... (2)

Cryacin (657549) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142257)

Actually, I just finished a contract with a large financial corporation, and they don't have a single printer, nor a stationery cupboard in the skyscraper except for the receipt printer in the cafe.

Re:Books perhaps... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141649)

The average life span of a hard drive is 5 years. This is not even to mention format incompatibilities. A paper book on acid-free paper has a life span in the hundreds of years. Paper is clearly the superior archival instrument.

Re:Books perhaps... (2)

cellocgw (617879) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144487)

I think your comparison is flawed. If you were reading a paper book hundreds of times a day (to say nothing of deleting and rewriting the pages), it would wear out far sooner than the hard drive.
If you take a hard drive, write once, and place in a nice environmentally compatible locker, then read parts of it every few months, it'll last a longer time.

Re:Books perhaps... (2)

MacTO (1161105) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141659)

Physical libraries are going to exist for a very long time.

As things stand today, there are too many books that are not available electronically or that are not available to libraries electronically.

As things stand today, libraries are more than a repository of books: they provide programs for everyone from toddlers to seniors.

There are many advantages to electronic publications, but it is important to realize that there is a long way to go before those dead tree repositories disappear.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142695)

Books age and must be replaced.

To sustain their collection, libraries must acquire fresh copies as their existing inventory reaches its end of life. The correct policy in this matter would be to replace books with a digital copy either provided by the publisher or recorded from the expiring edition.

The wrong policy would be to buy yet another paper book.

The existing system is neither economical nor rational in the current environment. Prior to ebooks people went to these institutions to get information. Mostly reference and research as well as inexpensive recreational material. They are no longer the primary source for this information. People instead task the internet which means that they're sort of going the way of Blockbuster Video.

I've seen a lot of people in here say "but I love the library"... and some people love blockbuster video. It. Does. Not. Matter.

These institutions are expensive and were totally reasonable when they were vital and used. Today they're neither.

The compromise is to transitioning their inventory to digital copies which radically lowers their cost. What is more, it makes their collection available to more users since most users will increasingly want a digital copy in the first place. Set this up properly and small towns can get access to major metropolitan research at the touch of a button. This is in everyone's interest.

Obviously we can keep a few large libraries running. Universities, some of the larger branches. But the small town branch? Keep a section for used paper backs, a few racks of reference books, possibly some local paper records of local trivia... and digitize the rest.

Its that or die. Choose. This or death. And that isn't me threatening the death. That's irrelevance gripping its icy indifferent hands around the issue. You can respect it or it will kill them.

HDD age and must be replaced. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143117)

Systems to decode the information electronically will be made unavailable and therefore transcription is necessary. Operating systems will be removed and need replacing and that needs new systems to decode the information. Hardware will no longer support older OSs and that OS needs replacing, needing new decoding systems....

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143831)

Choose. This or death. And that isn't me threatening the death. That's irrelevance gripping its icy indifferent hands around the issue. You can respect it or it will kill them.

This might be true (a very highly qualified "might") if the printed word were the only service the modern library offers. However, it's not. I won't waste my time running down a list of those services, but it seems clear that you have either not used a public library in quite some time or choose to ignore the large selection of services on offer. Hint: internet access, rural, and low-income patrons.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141705)

RTFA.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

Re:Books perhaps... (3, Insightful)

Gr8Apes (679165) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141791)

While digital formats certainly beat books for a whole host of reasons, pleasure reading is not among them. There's something about sitting down with a book that just doesn't work as well with a digital device, at least not yet. Same with a newspaper - I get more info in 10s with a newspaper than I do on a news website. I can scan the much larger format much faster and focus on what interests me vs having to click multiple links on news websites. I've actually considered going back to getting a paper, it's still up in the air.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

Yomers (863527) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143351)

There's something about sitting down with a book that just doesn't work as well with a digital device, at least not yet.

Try kindle or other reader with e-inc screen. If you still prefer old style books - that is probably because you used to it, in less than 100 years paper books will be no more than curiosity, like scrolls or stone tablets with inscribed symbols. There is certainly something about sitting with stone tablet that just does not work as well with the books, but stone tablets, paper books or books on a digital devices are essentially the same - information in human readable form. Digital reader is more convenient than a paper book, same as paper book is more convenient than a stone table - information density is higher, reproduction cost is lower (practically zero for digital devices). But newer formats are less sturdy - it's not easy to destroy stone tablet, paper books burn and rot, digital devices are even more fragile. So use stone or metal tablets if your want your message to be read in couple thousands years, digital reader for everyday reading.

Always yours, Captain Obvious

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

danbuter (2019760) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141847)

Until someone dumps a nuke in our atmosphere and wipes out most of the servers. Then paper books are going to be very, very important.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142225)

Because a nuke in the atmosphere won't affect libraries too?

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143177)

Because a nuke in the atmosphere won't affect libraries too?

EMP doesn't wipe ink off paper. Otherwise we'd just reuse it after blasting it with radio waves.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143719)

He's talking about EMP, buttmunch, which doesn't affect paper.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142087)

Traditional libraries have been, until the PATRIOT Act, fairly anonymous as far as surveillance is concerned. That was one of the advantages of them until recently. Now they are only anonymous if you hide your face from any cameras and read the whole book without checking it out.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142463)

Depends on the library.

For example my local library will gladly hand over all of their records to the policy when asked. They also destroy all of their records the instant they don’t need them anymore. So beyond what you currently have checked out there is not much for them to turn over.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

intermodal (534361) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142629)

You are correct that it varies from library to library. It's just hard to know what each library does. I haven't physically checked out a book in a long time, but only because I have such a stack of books that I own at present and haven't read yet.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142923)

I suppose you could ask what their document retention policy is, but that might interfere with your prejudice. Libraries and Librarians are, believe it or not, pretty rabid about unfettered access to information for all people.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143097)

Same here. The library records are deleted as soon as the book/DVD/CD is safely returned to ensure they can't be forced to hand over historical records.

If only companies would do the same...

Re: Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45144799)

Except for the backup ...

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

internerdj (1319281) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142299)

I didn't really get the vinyl album folks until this very moment.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143249)

I didn't really get the vinyl album folks until this very moment.

News flash: you still don't. Books retain their "fidelity", regardless of their format. CDs and high-bitrate MP3s have much higher fidelity than vinyl. "Vinyl sounds better" is generally just a pathetic attempt by certain people trying to feel better by sounding elitist. See also "Audiophile" magazine.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

happy_place (632005) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142393)

I still use our local library, though I'm a huge fan of ebooks. There are certain books I don't want to purchase, but can access via library or interlibrary loans, that make accessing the books more feasible. I take my kids there and they have a chance to just look through the shelves and find something they would not normally take home and read on their own. One daughter started reading a series I'd never heard of lately because she was attracted to the covers of some of the later books in the series, we had to place a hold on the first book which wasn't in this branch of our library, then as she started reading, she was a little perturbed by some of the content which she shared with the whole family, reading aloud passages that she thought were a bit gory--though I could tell she was secretly delighted by... This same daughter was a very slow to take to reading and required special reading assistance in grade school when younger, and not til she read the Harry Potter series did she really enjoy it. Now she's in High School and is absolutely thrilled to be reading "classics" like "The Crucible" while the rest of her class are dreading it.

I also like how you only get the book for a couple weeks at a time. To me, it's motivating to read the book or move on... you have to choose to actually pursue the book. You don't collect a hundred of them on your edevice and never finish them...

The nicest thing about a trip to the library is how much I pay to go... I do worry that even with cheaper books to access, the whole "free to read" concept is jeopardized by our need to affix a pricetag to everything.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

Aighearach (97333) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144761)

Yeah, I agree, libraries are great. Judging from the one I use, they are still popular and therefore won't go away. Most of them are City-owned, and so as long as local voters value them, they are safe.

The libraries do buy the books, so the need to affix price tags isn't really violated.

As for this whole topic, while I agree that it is silly to list an author as to be avoided, the idea that content doesn't matter as long as the kid is reading is insane. The whole premise is awful. To grab at an extreme case, should children be allowed to read books by pedophiles that claim that they want the children to be "free" and that children having sex with adults will "liberate" them? I say content does matter. (these books do exist, but children generally don't encounter them because they are kept out of libraries and mainstream book stores)

While the books actually on those lists are usually just fine for children, the claim that content doesn't matter doesn't hold up.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142603)

Traditional libraries are not the future. The dead tree archives will here after be a curiosity.

That said, repositories of books and stories etc will remain very important. They will however be increasingly a digital experience.

Having worked in IT and libraries my entire life I can tell you, for a fact, that I have never had to explain to anyone how to use a book. On the other hand I do and will continue to explain to several people how to use headphones, watch a DVD, use a word processor, send an email, print, and a whole host of other dead simple technological tasks every single day. These tasks are still absolute voodoo to many people, never mind accessing eBooks, streaming media and researching databases. Our digital/electronic collection is several orders of magnitude larger than our physical collection, which is the case in most college libraries. Most users still prefer books though and have no interest in being bothered with the complexities of technology.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142771)

Traditional libraries are not the future. The dead tree archives will here after be a curiosity.

The first sentence has the look of a self-fulfilling prophecy. I predict an irreversible downward spiral that goes like this: privileged, middle-class people declare libraries irrelevant because they can get books more conveniently online. Then, they stop going to the libraries. Then, they fail to realize how many books are in the library that aren't discoverable or obtainable online. Then, they vote to de-fund the public library because they don't need it -- and they no longer cross paths with the people who do. Then, a community center and promoter of lifelong learning is gone forever, as the library building gets converted to luxury condos.

All because a bunch of digital snobs are too cool to go borrow a physical book.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143839)

All because a bunch of digital snobs are too cool to go borrow a physical book.

You're the one being a snob. The solution isn't to change everyone so that they unnecessarily, inconveniently, and expensively obtain a physical book. The solution, in my opinion, is to make sure that digital copies of all books are available to all people. That isn't what tends to happen in online "stores", since they have a profit motive to push a small subset of the available titles. I would like to see a digital library, funded by taxes, that has every public domain book in an easy to access, text format (minimal open formatting ok, but not a proprietary format). That would be awesome.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144099)

The solution, in my opinion, is to make sure that digital copies of all books are available to all people.

That would indeed be awesome, but the barriers to achieving that are formidable. First, you'd have to eliminate copyright. Second, you'd have provide universal broadband access and a device for everyone. If you're suggesting that libraries should stay open until those goals are achieved, then we're in full agreement.

Re:Books perhaps... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45144447)

Well fine, we can just agree to agree, then. Sorry for calling you a snob.
I don't think we'd have to eliminate all copyright, by the way, making something available doesn't mean that it would then be legal to copy it. I would like to see authors retain whatever rights we as a society can agree on (tricky, I know). I hope that authors specifically, and content creators generally, can make a living by producing creative works. The libraries might license the works, for example. Who knows, maybe government would even fund the arts - one can dream. :)

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144817)

I don't think we'd have to eliminate all copyright, by the way, making something available doesn't mean that it would then be legal to copy it.

You're right, it would be more correct to say a massive reform of copyright would be needed, not its complete elimination.

But this brings me back to the sticky wicket of "everyone needs a device." Specifically, everyone needs a device that can read all the books in the digital (inter)national library. That is, all the digital formats. Present and future. Forever. For free, or close enough to free as makes no practical difference to a homeless person.

This, to me, seems like a big technical hurdle. When people speak of the convenience of e-books, they seem to mean convenience only for themselves, on their current device, of their current reading interests. (This is why I used the word "snob," which was probably a regrettable choice.) On larger time scales and looking at more diverse collections of people and books, I think paper books are FAR more convenient and less susceptible to being banned/burned by short-sighted minority interests.

Re:Books perhaps... (1)

Aighearach (97333) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144919)

We can measure this by going to the local library and looking around; do people who can afford to buy ebooks still go there? Yes. *whew*

I don't think the people with the sort of psychological profile you describe were at the library in the first place. They could already go to the book store, and be treated like a very important person. They voted against funding the library in the first place! My city has a wonderful library, a little over 10 years old. It took a few votes to pass it, and in the end we squeaked it through with under 51%. Now that it is built, it is wildly popular, and has no trouble getting funding; it passes with over 65% support.

And even with ebooks, the library buys copies and uses technology to "check them out" for free! Sure, I could hack my phone and make a copy, but why bother? If a few people do that, it is no big deal. The library is buying the same number of copies either way. So far, the library is most of the reason I even read ebooks that cost money! Same goes for magazines. I don't buy any, but I do read (on a tablet) ones that my library buys.

i H8 article (4, Funny)

Chrisq (894406) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141317)

I Lrn 2 Read good thru technology

books are on computers now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141359)

Ah yes, I remember when I used to spend whole days at libraries, way back in the 20th century, before the World Wide Web existed.

Seriously, we have these things called computers, and books are on them now, including works of fiction for your reading pleasure.

Without free Internet access, libraries today would be nothing more than useless repositories of books that no one wants to read. Libraries don't even have a monopoly on free Internet access, either: many coffee shops also offer free Wi-Fi.

Re:books are on computers now (1)

oji-sama (1151023) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141435)

Without free Internet access, libraries today would be nothing more than useless repositories of books that no one wants to read. Libraries don't even have a monopoly on free Internet access, either: many coffee shops also offer free Wi-Fi.

Nah. All libraries are full of books I don't want to read. Yet, they seem to contain hundreds of books I do want to read. And I buy too many books. Perhaps some day more ebooks, but I feel like the ebooks should be cheaper than their dead tree equivalents.

As a sidenote: Not too many coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi and equipment to non-customers.

Re:books are on computers now (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143291)

And I buy too many books. Perhaps some day more ebooks, but I feel like the ebooks should be cheaper than their dead tree equivalents.

Why? Why should ebooks be cheaper than dead trees? Are they less convienient? Do they wear out faster?

Re:books are on computers now (1)

oji-sama (1151023) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143395)

Why? Why should ebooks be cheaper than dead trees? Are they less convienient? Do they wear out faster?

Some obvious points

  • They are cheaper to distribute
  • They are cheaper to produce
  • In most cases they contain DRM and you can't sell them
  • In most cases they contain DRM and you can't easily lend the book
  • They require you to buy additional equipment

And yes, they do have positive points also.

Re:books are on computers now (1)

Aighearach (97333) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144975)

While I mostly agree, the lending part mostly doesn't apply to libraries, because the users aren't anonymous and already have to have an account with the library to borrow in the first place. So the DRM-laden lending works fine in that situation.

The bigger problem for DRM is that users mostly check out ebooks in formats that they can read in their favorite reader; and that mostly means without DRM. So the library looks at what people check out, and spends more money on PDF-based ebook lending programs.

Re:books are on computers now (4, Insightful)

Instantlemming (816917) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141467)

You go to a library to look for books.
You go onto the internet to look for .... Oooh shiny thing

A dead tree book beats a text on a monitor, and even e-ink readers. A book you can take with you and doesn't need power (although you do need a light source).
An e-reader is great (use it myself a lot), but for quickly flipping back to a certain bit to check/read it again, a paper book wins hands down.

I found more interesting books/authors by browsing the books on the bookshelves in a library than online.

Re:books are on computers now (4, Funny)

Gryle (933382) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141555)

You go onto the internet to look for .... Oooh shiny thing

I just logged on to check the weather. That was twelve years ago...

Re:books are on computers now (1)

Minwee (522556) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143535)

You go onto the internet to look for .... Oooh shiny thing

I just logged on to check the weather. That was twelve years ago...

This is not the right place to check the weather [tvtropes.org] .

Re: books are on computers now (1)

josh61980 (1025498) | 1 year,6 days | (#45145039)

You sir are Evil.

Re:books are on computers now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141731)

That's funny, because I've often wished that dead tree books were keyword searchable. In a long work of prose, page boundaries can be arbitrary, and flipping though pages is useless unless I can remember which page I'm looking for. I find ebooks far more convenient to flip through just by searching for words and phrases.

You go to a library to go onto the internet to look for ebooks. For browsing for ebooks you haven't found yet, there are ebook index sites and web search engines.

Re:books are on computers now (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143299)

That's funny, because I've often wished that dead tree books were keyword searchable.

Think about the origin of the word "index".

index and contents. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143537)

Appendix too. All exist to greater or lesser extent in dead-tree books and if there are more than four places for the "same information" as to the keyword used (and you have to know what the keyword is in an electronic search too) then skimming the book to each page is as fast or faster than the ebook search because then most of the time is "reading the context" to see if the result was what you meant. With electronic search of the entire text, you have no idea whether a search result has ANY relevant info and must read each one. An index search will either turn up nothing, in which case you look for a different keyword, or a small list that is most likely relevant or gives you several alternative suggestions for what you may be looking for.

Re:index and contents. (1)

Aighearach (97333) | 1 year,6 days | (#45145041)

Appendix too. All exist to greater or lesser extent in dead-tree books

For non-fiction, that is generally true. But even if non-fiction that isn't a technical manual or textbook, the indexing is usually really, really weak.

With electronic search, how easily you get to the information you want is related directly to your ability to search, and to include context in your search. Also, having electronic search available doesn't delete the index; it is for all those times when the index doesn't have what you want, or sucks.

Re:books are on computers now (1)

mcgrew (92797) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144585)

That's funny, because I've often wished that dead tree books were keyword searchable.

Nonfiction books have this thing in the back called an "index" that lists the words in the book and what pages they're on. For fiction, word search is useless. If you want to find where you were last time you were reading there's this thing you slip between the pages called a "bookmark".

For browsing for ebooks you haven't found yet, there are ebook index sites and web search engines.

How is a search engine going to find a book you've never heard of by an author whose name you don't know? If you find something on an index site, how do you know it's worth paying for?

I swear, you kids today...

Re: books are on computers now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45144911)

I prefer live tree books. Wtf. Do you need to call them dead tree book? Fucktard.

Re:books are on computers now (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141521)

Ah yes, I remember when I used to spend whole days at libraries, way back in the 20th century, before the World Wide Web existed.

Seriously, we have these things called computers, and books are on them now, including works of fiction for your reading pleasure.

Without free Internet access, libraries today would be nothing more than useless repositories of books that no one wants to read. Libraries don't even have a monopoly on free Internet access, either: many coffee shops also offer free Wi-Fi.

I've got to admit that I don't hit the library as often as I used to since I got an e-reader. But occasionally I want a book that's not a century old (Gutenberg) and I don't want to buy it. So I wander into the library and pick up something from the Dead Tree collection (DON'T speak to me about Overdrive!)

But libraries aren't just books and never were. I checked out a lot of records when I was in high school. More recently, I've checked out DVDs of movies. RedBox and Netflix can offer similar services, but I still scan the library shelves. Never know what may catch my eye.

Re:books are on computers now (1)

CRCulver (715279) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141851)

But libraries aren't just books and never were. I checked out a lot of records when I was in high school. More recently, I've checked out DVDs of movies. RedBox and Netflix can offer similar services, but I still scan the library shelves.

My well-funded local library stocks all the CDs and DVDs one would ever want to watch, but even the library is trying to get everyone to transition to digital by offering free access to Spotify- and Netflix-like services to those holding a library card.

Re:books are on computers now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142073)

My well-funded local library stocks all the CDs and DVDs one would ever want to watch

Uh-huh. Does your library have Ergo Proxy? I want to watch that.

Re:books are on computers now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141949)

But libraries aren't just books and never were. I checked out a lot of records when I was in high school. More recently, I've checked out DVDs of movies. RedBox and Netflix can offer similar services, but I still scan the library shelves. Never know what may catch my eye.

You're absolutely right! Libraries aren't just for books, and neither is the Internet.

Music: I used to listen to the radio. I don't anymore, because thanks to on-demand Internet radio sites, now I don't have to suffer the limited variety of broadcast radio.

Movies: I used to check out foreign films from the library. I don't anymore, because thanks to on-demand Internet movie sites, now I don't have to suffer the puny collection of the local library.

TV: I used to watch broadcast TV. I don't anymore, because thanks to on-demand Internet TV sites, now I can watch foreign TV shows I'd never even heard of before.

Dead tree copyright loophole (3, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141597)

Computers are in essence information copying machines. This means you'll end up having to pay for anything written after 1922 because of a law called copyright. Dead tree libraries use a loophole that avoids problems with copyright by allowing patrons to read a single book one after the other without requiring the making of new copies made.

Re:Dead tree copyright loophole (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143063)

It is not a loophole, it is there by intent.

Re:books are on computers now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141733)

RTMFA. Seriously. Your comment was already called out.

I worry that here in the 21st century people misunderstand what libraries are and the purpose of them. If you perceive a library as a shelf of books, it may seem antiquated or outdated in a world in which most, but not all, books in print exist digitally. But that is to miss the point fundamentally.

Re:books are on computers now (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142357)

The MF article sez:

libraries are also, for example, places that people, who may not have computers, who may not have internet connections, can go online without paying anything

The MF comment sez:

Libraries don't even have a monopoly on free Internet access

Reading comprehension much, MF-er?

Re:books are on computers now (1)

Yomers (863527) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143511)

Exactly, why would anybody go to library when any book can be downloaded from torrents and read on device with e-inc screen? And if it's immoral to download 'pirated' book - what is the difference between downloading a book and taking it from library?

Re:books are on computers now (1)

mcgrew (92797) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144563)

Ah yes, I remember when I used to spend whole days at libraries, way back in the 20th century, before the World Wide Web existed.

And they'll still be there in the 22nd century.

Seriously, we have these things called computers, and books are on them now, including works of fiction for your reading pleasure.

And for almost anything written in my six decade lifetime you'll either have to pay to read them or pirate the content. Yeah, I'm reading "A Tale of Two Cities" on mt phone, but if you want to read "All the Lives He Led" (boring book, quit halfway through) you're either going to have to pay, go to TPB (if you can find it there) or visit your public library, which is how I know Pohl's last book wasn't worth paying to read. You can download it for free in 73 years.

Without free Internet access, libraries today would be nothing more than useless repositories of books that no one wants to read.

Well, it is true that 97% of the population doesn't want to read at all, but unlike you I'm not part of the aliterate 97%. To misquote Twain, an aliterate has no advantage over an illiterate.

This from a guy who won't admit he was in a cult (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141483)

Indeed his parents even used him as a pawn to Scientology's propaganda when he was 7 years old

Re:This from a guy who won't admit he was in a cul (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45141607)

And should you be held responsible for your parent's doings when you were 7 years old?

So... (1)

Macchendra (2919537) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141627)

Be all Wickersham Brothers about it, why don't you. The guy's a decent writer.

Thank you (1)

nospam007 (722110) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141551)

Thanks for this, finally I don't feel guilty anymore for downloading 150.000 eBooks.

Not a defence of libraries (1)

LordLucless (582312) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141571)

Maybe his whole speech was, but the quoted section was in defence of fiction, not libraries.

Re:Not a defence of libraries (2)

jiriw (444695) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142475)

Indeed, his whole speech was in defence of libraries and of fiction... Actually, I think, in a broader scope it was defending people's possibilities to imagine. You could (partly) do that with (moving) pictures and theatre as well but he laid emphasis on written material - both the writer and the reader side of it. I think that's a justified emphasis because written material leaves more to the imagination and there is more of it.

One of the most basic ways to be able to fulfil that, people's possibilities to imagine, is through physical libraries. If everyone was born with a (mobile) internet connection, free of censorship, small enough in cost that it is affordable even in hard times and of liberal capability, a virtual form of libraries might be able to take over (some combination of e-reader, wikipedia and specialized chat system inhabited by the readers and 'virtual' librarians might do the job). Do remember, currently, young people first need to have some capability to navigate the internet, learn to handle a device capable of acting as an e-reader and learn some things about e-books and how to get them on their device before they can start reading them. Compare that to libraries for which they only need some push to actually pass that 'scary' librarian at his/her desk and their own two feet to walk to the library in the first place. Also, while there are still people in developed nations (not to mention the nations that are still developing) that have no easy access to internet, physical libraries have a very substantial role to play.

I read Mr. Gaimans (edited) lecture on the website of 'the guardian' from the link in the article. It made me remember all the emotions and wonder I felt while reading through all those fantasy and science stories I have... and the times I (try to) put something on paper as well (try to, because there are too many things I am interested in, including reading and therefore I mostly lack the time. Maybe that will change one day. The day I will stop imagining probably is the day I stop living).
I didn't hang out a lot in libraries as a child... but I did every now and then... and always loved the stories I read. At the end of (equivalent) high-school I still had a few reservations about reading due to the mandatory reading lists I had for the foreign languages I chose as subject (English and German. My native language is Dutch). But it didn't withhold me from also finding pleasure in reading. Also in much of the literature I had to read for those language subjects. It was at my early twenties that my interest in fantasy reading really took off and at that age I had enough income (savings form a Saturday job in earlier years, then student, then regular jobs) to buy the books I wanted to read, second hand and I had the internet to search for reviews and interesting authors. Still I buy most of the stories I read in physical book form. I find that form of reading superior for all situations except when mobile and weight-restricted. I do have a smart phone and I do have a very capable tablet. I'm very familiar with computers and the internet... still I find, for stories, hard copy a joy to read above all others.

Of course this is very much my own opinion and I do think everyone is entitled their own. When reading the lecture, however, I found myself both logically and emotionally agreeing with it and I hope more people will.
For it is the politicians mostly concerned with making the decision to do so, my opinion is that a policy involving the closure of public libraries is one of the worst things a politician could do apart from outright lying or doing something criminal.

Snobbery? (1)

endianx (1006895) | 1 year,6 days | (#45141999)

He praises the lack of "snobbery" about books, and then goes on to declare books to be superior to e-books.

I love books, I have 1400 or so, and I only buy e-books that I don't really care much about (like Microsoft books that will be out of date in 1 year). But that is my preference. I can't make an objective case that books are superior to e-books, and neither can Gaiman.

Re:Snobbery? (1)

dbIII (701233) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142669)

He praises the lack of "snobbery" about books, and then goes on to declare books to be superior to e-books.

Format versus content so I don't see any snobbery there.
Personally I see ebooks as better for convenience (with eink anyway) and paper better for longevity, and have probably read about twice as much of Neil Gaiman's stuff as ebook than on paper.

Re:Snobbery? (1)

Another, completely (812244) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142903)

I can't imagine enjoying The Sandman more on e-book than in those nice "Absolute" anthologies.

The internet didn't kill the library. (4, Informative)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142023)

The internet didn't kill the library. Library patronage was declining long before the internet. Libraries, sprang into existence because books were expensive and most people struggled to provide shelter and food for their families. Post WWII, at least in the US, things began to change and people had more disposable income. As people climbed the economic ladder, they were in a better position to purchase their own books, particularly paperbacks, trading money for convenience (as is the case with most consumer goods). This trend continued through the 1960s and 70s and really accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s as book clubs took off all over the place. It was fashionable to be reading the latest best seller and the serial model of the library couldn't support that.

All the internet did was change the purchase mode from paper to electronic versions of the media. It didn't impact the use of the library because that change had already manifested itself based on the economic wherewithal of the patrons. Interestingly enough, both the Philadelphia and New York public libraries reported significant increases in usage during the last two recessions. It would seem that even with the plethora of electronic devices to read e-books, when money is tight and one has to watch expenses, one gives up the convenience and goes back to the library.

In short, it's not technology that is causing the demise of the library, but increased disposable income.

Re:The internet didn't kill the library. (1)

DaveyJJ (1198633) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143313)

Except ... income (including disposable) for the average American hasn't increased since the late 1960s. You have less real-world buying power now than your parents had five decades ago. While productivity has increased, your wages haven't. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000. (The 1% have seen their real-world income increase 240% in the same time, though.) Since 1990 the real value of minimum wage is up 21% ... but cost of living in that same time is up 67%. So while your basic premise may seem sound, the data about disposable income being the cause seems to falsify that theory.

Re:The internet didn't kill the library. (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143935)

Except ... income (including disposable) for the average American hasn't increased since the late 1960s. You have less real-world buying power now than your parents had five decades ago. While productivity has increased, your wages haven't. If the median household income had kept pace with the economy since 1970, it would now be nearly $92,000, not $50,000. (The 1% have seen their real-world income increase 240% in the same time, though.) Since 1990 the real value of minimum wage is up 21% ... but cost of living in that same time is up 67%. So while your basic premise may seem sound, the data about disposable income being the cause seems to falsify that theory.

I agree with you on your technical argument, but disposable income takes into account real income plus purchasing power. If you credit is more readily available so you can finance some purchases, then you also have more disposable income. So, while real wages might not have increased to keep up with inflation, the easing of credit since the 1960s has increased the purchasing power of the consumer. As such, the basic premise still stands: When people have more funds at their disposal, they choose convenience over cost. When they have fewer funds at their disposal they choose cost over convenience. Whether those funds are wages, credit, government transfer payments or from the sale of illegal goods, doesn't matter, at least in this discussion.

Re:The internet didn't kill the library. (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143487)

The good news is that public library patronage has been increasing in the US over the past decade (32% from 2001-2010). Libraries have adapted to the internet and now are gateways and enablers to the new information sources it represents.

My wife is a Librarian and it's interesting how her job has changed. A large part of it is now acting as a teacher of people who are inexperienced with technology how to use the internet and other technology resources the library has to offer. These people are either older folks who don't use technology much in their daily life, or young people who are aware of social media but not so much the learning and knowledge sources on the internet.

Fine for you, perhaps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142137)

Just don't pay for this hobby that no one does anymore with MY tax dollars (that you STOLE from me). Libraries were built for a time when reading was something everyone did and it helped society. These days no one has time to read books, and those who do don't really care since things like video games and movies have taken over the intellectual and story telling realms.

Re:Fine for you, perhaps. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142673)

If your post is an exemplary of the result of someone not reading, I'd say it should be mandatory that everyone gets to read at least one book per year. With voting rights removed if you don't.

And don't claim to have no time for reading books. If you have the time to read Slashdot, you also have the time to read a book.

Libraries = No Privacy (1)

PincushionMan (1312913) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142333)

Historically, the list books you check out from a library have been protected. However, with the way the government is thinking about it, it is just metadata, since it isn't the books themselves. At this point, I'd honestly be surprised if they weren't mining that data also.

Remember:
Power Corrupts
Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely
Knowledge is Power

Therefore
Absolute Knowledge Corrupts Absolutely

Re:Libraries = No Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142661)

Absolute Knowledge Corrupts Absolutely

It depends. On how absolute knowledge is used. For example, in This Perfect Day by Ira Levin, the UniComp programmers use their absolute knowledge to create a dystopia. By contrast, in the Culture novels by Iain M Banks, the Minds use their absolute knowledge to create a utopia.

Re:Libraries = No Privacy (1)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143149)

By contrast, in the Culture novels by Iain M Banks, the Minds use their absolute knowledge to create a utopia.

Yeah, that's what the Minds tell you... dumb humans fall for anything.

Re:Libraries = No Privacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143803)

Humans are excluded from the Culture, we got screwed over in their internal disputes. The author had to do this otherwise there is no way to explain American politics.

Re:Libraries = No Privacy (1)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143141)

Historically, the list books you check out from a library have been protected. However, with the way the government is thinking about it, it is just metadata, since it isn't the books themselves. At this point, I'd honestly be surprised if they weren't mining that data also.

As we've mentioned above, libraries typically delete records as soon as you return whatever you borrowed, so they can't be 'mined'. I believe it's a standard feature in library software these days.

Re:Libraries = No Privacy (1)

0123456 (636235) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143195)

Actually, thinking about it, the big threat is borrowing e-books. Since they all seem to 'phone home' to Adobe, the US government can probaby just ask them for a list of all the books you've read even though the library doesn't keep one.

Re:Libraries = No Privacy (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143551)

As we've mentioned above, libraries typically delete records as soon as you return whatever you borrowed, so they can't be 'mined'. I believe it's a standard feature in library software these days.

This occurred because the government actually tried to get book lending records and librarians opposed the request. When it went through, they promptly started deleting all lending records because it was data they didn't need to maintain at all and that data was of interest. They only maintain what you have out as a result. (After all, does the library really need to know you borrowed a book after you returned it? What useful purpose could it serve? If you want "recommendations", well, the librarian is probably your best resource - just say you want books similar to the one you're returning.)

Some of the biggest information freedom fighters it seems are librarians.

And the problem with reading is not libraries or books, or video games or TV. It's school. If there's anything that makes reading less cool, is doing endless book reports, analyzing text for subtext and being forced to read some dreary text as a homework assignment. Nothing kills reading faster than turning it into an unpleasurable activity.

ikr (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,6 days | (#45142529)

tl;dr

I like libraries but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142605)

they should think of opening a section with a coffee cafe, like Barnes and Noble's. Then I could sit and read (usually stuff I brought with me) for three hours instead of 1 1/2.

TV (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45142881)

TV is gooder then books.

Druugggzzz are bad kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143171)

Just say no!

Your local [republican / democrat] says we cant have them brats thinking for themselves that defeats the whole point of the American education system.

Libraries ? Its so damn UnAmerican its subvervsively socialist.

First, Be A Reader (1)

Forthan Red (820542) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143753)

If you want to have kids who are readers, then you first must set an example. If kids see their parents reading books for pleasure, they will be much more inclined to become readers. Read to your kids every day, until they start to learn to read, then have them read to you every day. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house where both my parents enjoyed reading, and a trip to the town library for new books was a weekly family event.

Fiction is pointless and boring (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,6 days | (#45143765)

There's too much real stuff to read to waste time on fiction! What about history? Mathematics? I couldn't read all the history books I want to read in my entire life - and he's suggesting I waste my time reading fiction?

Use Project Gutenberg (1)

b4upoo (166390) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143951)

Few libraries could hope to compare to Project Gutenberg. Although books must be free of copyright to be on the site that is not such a disadvantage. Somewhere at around 1920 the use of the English language became rather crude whereas before radio and television were highly present the use of language was quite superior. Often the books of the earlier period were vastly superior to the expensive books now in book stores. But for those that insist we do need an electronic lending library that releases current materials. If we include a 14 day auto delete function as well as a good anti-copy scheme an electronic library could be as fair to publishers as the ink and paper routine.
                Most people who read a lot still like paper and ink which means there is something lacking in electronic screens or electronics.
                  If anyone wants a block buster product idea how about an electronic score sheet for musicians such that a foot pedal could do the page changes as on plays. Imagine if we could store our sheet music in a screen like device and select the tune to play and turn the page with a foot pedal. And for another item how about a device that can listen to a tune and then write the melody as sheet music in the requested key and clef? Imagine using an FM radio that can be transcribed for any instrument at the push of a button. Want to be a billionaire?

Parental views of what's appropriate. (1)

david_thornley (598059) | 1 year,6 days | (#45143977)

I'm fine with the idea that there is no bad fiction that somebody likes. However, it was a bit of a shock to pick my son up from daycare and see he's happily reading Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. That was actually the first fiction I saw him read for fun.

If you don't read great literature, you'll end up (1)

phantomfive (622387) | 1 year,6 days | (#45144637)

If you don't read great literature, you'll end up being like the people you see on TV. Reading expands your possibilities.

Elitism and Reading (4, Interesting)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | 1 year,6 days | (#45145043)

I have to say, I do get a little fed up with pedestal upon which we place books. Don't get me wrong: it's a worthwhile pastime, but people develop such elitists attitudes towards reading. People judge others, and judge themselves, by the quality and quantity of their reading material. They lament how people are reading less, and how this will destroy intelligence in the average person. If you don't read, or worse, don't enjoy reading, then it means that there's something wrong. Your imagination is underdeveloped or malformed; a product of all the worst bits of society.

The fact is, while reading is indeed an intellectual activity, it's an intellectual activity that appeals to people to varying degrees. Some people simply do not find intellectual nourishment from books. Now, perhaps it's because they are stunted in their intellect or imagination, but often, there are other ways they stimulate their brain. Indeed, social situations can be very mentally stimulating, requiring complex thought processes to navigate successfully. I myself have found that mathematics holds far greater mental stimulation than reading (and I used to read all the time). Juggling apparently is a very good way to improve your brain, and caters for the more kinaesthetic learners.

I'm glad you enjoy books Neil, but please don't make the mistake of thinking they're for everyone.

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