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It Was A Pleasure To Burn
October 11, 2011 5:30 PM   Subscribe

6 Reasons We're In Another 'Book-Burning' Period in History isn't the usual Cracked list. S Peter Davis talks about his job walking through library warehouses and destroying tens of thousands of often old and irreplaceable books.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn (152 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
In the future, there will be no books, just "Blank Reasons why Blank is Blank" and "The World's Blankiest Blanks".
posted by dunkadunc at 5:34 PM on October 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


This is the usual Cracked list.
posted by dougrayrankin at 5:34 PM on October 11, 2011 [13 favorites]


Sure, it's one thing that libraries are forced to shred their collections because of an implosion in the economy. That's depressing, but understandable. But what about when thousands of turn-of-the-last-century books and newspapers become landfill because the library wants to install a coffee shop? Also understandable, if the head librarian is Mr. Burns.

But that's what's happening at the University of New South Wales in Australia, where books and newspapers dating back to the 1850s have been pulped to make room for more social space, seating room and computers, which Professor Peter Slezak describes as turning the library "into a kind of Starbucks."


I'm local. Heck I went there. Anyone want to organize a protest?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:35 PM on October 11, 2011


That's pretty much the plot seed of Rainbows End, Vernor Vinge's last but one book (not his best, I'm afraid).
posted by Artw at 5:38 PM on October 11, 2011


But that's what's happening at the University of New South Wales in Australia, where books and newspapers dating back to the 1850s have been pulped to make room for more social space, seating room and computers, which Professor Peter Slezak describes as turning the library "into a kind of Starbucks."

The more I read this the more annoyed I get. The library has a social space - its the lawn in front of the library! And there's a place to get coffee - it's the coffee cart on the library lawn!
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:39 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Egon Spengler was right.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:40 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Brewster Kahle (of Internet Archive fame) is building a collection of tens of millions of books, which he's putting into nitrogenated containers. His group just got done going through 130,000 books donated by Friends of SF libraries.
posted by Twang at 5:40 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


What's Sir Patrick Moore doing on page 2?
posted by Artw at 5:43 PM on October 11, 2011


Do me a favor. before you comment in this thread, take a spin past your local library, and step inside at least long enough to answer the following question. Is it a TARDIS? That is, is it larger on the inside than on the outside? No? Then would you prefer that the library stop taking in new books altogether? If not, then I think we can all agree that libraries of fixed size which wish to acquire new books must, at some point, remove old ones.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:45 PM on October 11, 2011 [58 favorites]


I understand why they need to remove books - I just wish that they would sell them, rather than pulping them. Even if only to people looking for set dressing.
posted by jb at 5:46 PM on October 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


ok fine, so every book in the universe is digitized. what happens when some random (or not random) electro magnetic pulse rips through the planet and destroys all that? id kind of like to have thousands of hard copies of the sum of human knowledge lying around.
posted by Glibpaxman at 5:49 PM on October 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


My feeling as well.

...destroying tens of thousands of often old and irreplaceable books.

It's not like a crapload of bodice busters and Koontz novels are being destroyed. If something is by definition irreplaceable, it shouldn't be destroyed. I don't give a damn why they're being destroyed. It's just wrong.
posted by Splunge at 5:50 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


The issue isn't book removal or even book destruction, it's doing it the cheapest way possible, without even looking at the books as you toss them in the shredder.

In fairness it seems like librarians do this because people are rather unsophisticated in their reaction to destroying books.
posted by GuyZero at 5:51 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I understand why they need to remove books - I just wish that they would sell them, rather than pulping them. Even if only to people looking for set dressing.

That's what gets me. I've got amazing things at library booksales. Heck where I am if they just left them out on the street they'd get picked up and read!

Do me a favor. before you comment in this thread, take a spin past your local library, and step inside at least long enough to answer the following question. Is it a TARDIS? That is, is it larger on the inside than on the outside?

Metaphorically....
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:51 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


take a spin past your local library

While the Harry Ransom Center is technically local to me, I don't think a university collection is the same thing as my local public library. There's a difference between my local library deciding that they really can't do anything with old encyclopedias that nobody wants to read and pulping 150-year-old books from a university library like this New South Wales thing. There's still data loss with the old encyclopedias--eventually they'd be be the 150-year-old books--but today there are a hell of a lot fewer books from the 1850s than there are encyclopedias from 1975.
posted by immlass at 5:55 PM on October 11, 2011


I love paper books. I have never thrown away a book. I have shelves and boxes full of them, to the dismay of my wife. When I was younger my mom would tell me to get rid of them. I never understood this. Get rid of a book? I often re-read them. I go to the boxes and rediscover old friends. Sometimes I can't find one that I'd particularly like to read again. So I order it from ABE books or somewhere.

Destroying a book is alien to me.
posted by Splunge at 5:56 PM on October 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


This is an incredibly silly article.
posted by waitingtoderail at 5:57 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


then I think we can all agree that libraries of fixed size which wish to acquire new books must, at some point, remove old ones

Agreed, but indiscriminate destruction in the dead of night is not the best way to go about it.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:57 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I understand why they need to remove books - I just wish that they would sell them, rather than pulping them. Even if only to people looking for set dressing.

I've worked at a couple of state schools, and state property laws and regulations generally get in the way of actually selling things in a manner that is beneficial to the institution rather than the state. To be fair, this is for good reasons (which should be obvious if you think about it for a few minutes), but it leaves libraries in quite the bind.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:58 PM on October 11, 2011


A year or two back, I went back to the children's department of the library we went to when I was a kid. It's been rather heavily remodeled since I was a kid and reorganised a bit, since they've put in more shelves. But the thing I did was good look for the books I loved as a kid. Most of them were gone and perhaps rightly so, there's surely a better history of the Battle of Britain and a better biography of Lou Gehrig by now.* But Norby the Mixed-Up Robot was still there. My brother worked at the library in high school, so we were talking to the librarians and they said that every time they have to clear out books, the powers that be try to trash the Norby books because they're old, a bit battered and surely their spectacular 1980s covers wouldn't appeal to 'modern' kids. But the librarians keep saving them because they're so good. (The Norby books recently came back into print, actually.)

*When I was a kid, I don't think there was a biography of Lou Gehrig aimed at adults, at least not that the library owned. I think there have been two since.
posted by hoyland at 5:58 PM on October 11, 2011


If nothing else, is it possible to at least hand pick a few experienced book resellers, to go through the stuff to be dumped and cherry pick stuff for resale?
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:01 PM on October 11, 2011


This is an incredibly silly article.

To all haters of Cracked's style: Would you rather this sort of information not get out? I'd briefly forgotten about the UNSW incident, and I'm a daily reader of the local paper, an alumni of the university, and someone who has friends and family still attending it. This is a site with worldwide reach, and if a few dick jokes mean more people know about Teddy Roosavelt or whatever, what's the harm?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:01 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Metaphorically....

Yes, I get it LiB, check my profile. The job I do every morning at 9AM is preserve our recorded civilization. But I am so goddamned tired of seeing my colleagues called out as philistines when they have to grapple with the inevitable calculus of limited space and limited budgets. Maybe, every once in an immensely long while, they make a mistake, because they're humans. But I swear to you, it's mostly Dean Koontz novels.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:03 PM on October 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


My first thought was to start a group like some kind of underground liberation organization. And get all dressed in black. Carry bolt cutters and stun guns. And FREE ALL OF THE BOOKS!

But then we'd stand there, surrounded by unconscious people and piles of books. And it would be like...

What now?

I dunno.

Guess we didn't think this through.

And one real tough librarian would start to kick one of the unconscious book burners.

And we'd be like...

Jessamyn! Stop. You're killing him.

And she's be all...

You used my real name!

And I'd be very scared.
posted by Splunge at 6:05 PM on October 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Do me a favor. before you comment in this thread, take a spin past your local library, and step inside at least long enough to answer the following question. Is it a TARDIS? That is, is it larger on the inside than on the outside? No?

Then ask yourself this: does anyone have two shadows?
posted by katillathehun at 6:06 PM on October 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


This sounds like a failure of either management or funding for staff to regularly inventory and weed their collection. I doubt any library would have soooo many invaluable, rare books as to run out of room for everything else. Many libraries have a "rare books" collection or section, all they need to do is move books to it as they become rare. This requires a lot of shelf scanning, but in the case of large public or university libraries, they have legions of part time student workers to do this drudgery.
posted by Shit Parade at 6:08 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Isn't the Library of Congress supposed to have one of everything anyway, making this all moot?
posted by ZeusHumms at 6:08 PM on October 11, 2011



Do me a favor. before you comment in this thread, take a spin past your local library, and step inside at least long enough to answer the following question. Is it a TARDIS? That is, is it larger on the inside than on the outside? No?

Then ask yourself this: does anyone have two shadows?


One thing about that episode always bugged me: would they really need all that physical space to store that much data?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:09 PM on October 11, 2011


This reads like it was written by an extremely uptight and screaming Nicholson Baker.
posted by sleepy pete at 6:09 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


ZeusHumms: "Isn't the Library of Congress supposed to have one of everything anyway, making this all moot?"

You're the first one up against the wall when the book revolution happens.
posted by Splunge at 6:11 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Do me a favor. before you comment in this thread, take a spin past your local library, and step inside at least long enough to answer the following question. Is it a TARDIS?

I was so much more excited by this than by the sentences that followed it. TARDIS! Wooo!
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:11 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I work at one of those library warehouses. And I remember talking to my boss about why on earth we were getting rid of books (although in our case, they were just periodicals, nothing irreplaceable) when we could just sell them and he said that there was some tax and/or legal reason as to why they couldn't sell them.

And yeah, no one wants to put their name on a warehouse because they're not sexy. But we need another bay! Our current building holds about 2 million volumes and we're open 7 days a week.

But someone at the main campus decided that they wanted to put their name on a building that is attached to the current library and also decided to have the brilliant idea to not put any stack space in it.
posted by sperose at 6:13 PM on October 11, 2011


I prefer that we mock old library books before we pulp them.
posted by vespabelle at 6:15 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


#occupylibraries
posted by littlesq at 6:15 PM on October 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


You've annoyed me enough to log in while working the ref desk. I keep getting interrupted by students to write this and the thread keeps getting longer...

First of all, this is (pun not intended) a very incendiary article presented by someone with a limited though voluble understanding of what is happening. The author clearly sees economic realities but just as clearly doesn't see a solution, so rails against libraries? That's helpful, dude.

Second of all, my library just finished up its semi-annual booksale oh, three days ago. We had a meeting today which discussed what to do with the books which didn't sell. Policies being extremely pro-book here, we decided to re-shelve the books that didn't sell in our gift books room. We are going to go through the books and destroy the ones which are in bad condition--end of story. We are going to go through the books and destroy the ones which do not sell next booksale--end of story. We are going to restrict the amount of material that we currently accept in donations--end of story. We are DROWNING in books!

A typical academic library (mainly what the article is about) has several million volumes and that number only grows every day. Every year we get turned down for the opportunity to expand. Everything's online now, right?

Destroying books takes money--the salary of student workers, regular staff, and actual librarians who sort through this material. This was in fact brought up in the article. It's all too easy to reach for the cheaper path there. Not all libraries (very few, in my experience) trash books on a large scale like the author describes. Even fewer do so with contract staff (you'll note he was mostly talking about the UK and Australia).

We cannot let a few resellers in to look over the books, as a general rule (though some libraries can). That would hardly be fair for a state agency/entity to do--allow special access to one group.

The Library of Congress does not have to keep one copy of every book--that's a pretty common misconception. Ask me sometime about their interest in providing storage space for official state government documents (hint: they mostly don't want them and the state mostly wants to give them to them for preservation's sake).

Finally, why do libraries destroy books in the 'dead of night' and with utmost secrecy? Because of bad press! Because funding bodies refuse to fund new books when 'you clearly don't need any, what with the trashing of the old ones.' Because of people who read a headline and don't think critically but do get angry.
posted by librarylis at 6:16 PM on October 11, 2011 [54 favorites]


#occupylibraries

The Liberty Square Library is pretty freakin' sweet.
posted by The Whelk at 6:19 PM on October 11, 2011


And not one Farenheit 451 reference.
posted by Splunge at 6:21 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


How about this: somebody organize a website that posts books that are on the block to be pulped by a library. Post the ISBN, title, author, and location. Maybe a picture of the cover and the spine. The book gets a reprieve for 6 to 12 months. If anybody wants that book, anybody in the world who has access to the internet, then they have to arrange shipping of the book; otherwise, it's toast. It can have a RSS feed, text alerts. Anybody up for organizing this?
posted by jabberjaw at 6:22 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


What isn't getting adequately explained here is that the philosophy of libraries has changed. (Child of librarians, sibling of another one here.) Libraries are more and more about providing internet access and access to DVDs, plus social space to use those things. This bugs me less, actually, than the change in shelving philosophy. When I was a kid, the shelves at the library were full, so you could browse. Then along came the idea that people would get more out of choosing from fewer books, so they started putting more and more in the stacks and fewer and fewer actually out in front of patrons. The shelves are about 1/3 full at my childhood library now.

I used to work at a bookstore where we tried this same silly idea - fewer books, more "curated", etc etc. Everyone hated it. "This place used to have so many books," they'd say. And we had the justification of losing money and having to run a leaner inventory.
posted by Frowner at 6:23 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is it a TARDIS? That is, is it larger on the inside than on the outside?

Yes. My local library is a TARDIS. My undergraduate library was, too, in that most of it was several stories below ground under a grassy quad, so that the interior of the library was many times bigger than the visible exterior. Do I win something?
posted by The World Famous at 6:24 PM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Then along came the idea that people would get more out of choosing from fewer books...

The fuck?
posted by Splunge at 6:24 PM on October 11, 2011


Then along came the idea that people would get more out of choosing from fewer books...

The fuck?


No, really, it's that whole "paradox of choice" thing, plus the idea that since most people don't want to read, for example, Lloyd Alexander's Time Cat, the shelf is better if it holds just the books that most people want to read. Shelf looks neater, it's easier to track the data, people can see the books they want more easily...of course, the idea that you find a book rather than coming in with a shopping list, that's not an acceptable idea.

It's like all librarians are guilty nerds - they feel that the way readers actually use a library is embarrassing, so the library should be reconfigured to cater to people who don't actually like reading too much.
posted by Frowner at 6:28 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


To all haters of Cracked's style: Would you rather this sort of information not get out?

I read Cracked almost every day, and I've nothing against its style of humour. But the Cracked article itself links to the Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC. Hardly a case of information not getting out. In fact, SMH and ABC get to the target demographic far better than Cracked does.

Libraries are not getting rid of books just for the heck of it. There are real issues here, and plenty of people have done a good job of explaining those already, so I'll just keep myself to noting that we can't just throw a "protest" at every $ISSUE_OF_THE_DAY.
posted by vidur at 6:29 PM on October 11, 2011


That is, is it larger on the inside than on the outside? No? Then would you prefer that the library stop taking in new books altogether? If not, then I think we can all agree that libraries of fixed size which wish to acquire new books must, at some point, remove old ones.

1) Room for new books is not the problem.

2) Why must a library remain of fixed size? Corporations, armies and the ranks of unemployed are allowed to grow without bound.
posted by DU at 6:30 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


*Shudders* I understand the need to make way for the demand for newer books...but this is why my book buying habits are a mix between bookstores (for comic books usually) and antique/thrift/used book sales. Because hard copy books are beautiful in their own right.

Because of the first edition 1921 Messer Marco Polo by Donn-Byrne with some kind of advertisement pressed between the pages along with beautiful illustrations every 30 pages or so. An otherwise very common but lovely little book.

Because of the four Reader's Encyclopedia books, from the 1950's which gives wonderful and informative details on many classical works, as well as tidbits of information I can't find in their modern equivalents. Yes, they're a sort of hard cover version of Google, but eh.

Because of the four nature pocket guide books that my Nana's mysterious, now-dead, sister carried with her in her travels. There are lightly penciled checkmarks and notes next to the Ivory-billed Woodpecker and Carolina Parakeet. I will never be able to know her story, but I can piece together a little from the books and from stories which I finally drew up and gently out of my Nana's fading memory (too late though! far too late for anything really worth writing down!) They are, however, almost at the point where they may need to be taken apart and displayed accordingly in order to preserve the pages.

Books are beautiful, and while I certainly understand needing to destroy a large amount of commonly available books, destroying something equivalent to, let's say, the Gutenberg Bible makes me want to go on an almost mad "art thief" type library rampage.

It makes me almost weep, it really does.
posted by DisreputableDog at 6:30 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's like all librarians the minority of jackasses in management who think big-box retail bookstores are a good model for libraries are guilty nerds
posted by twirlip at 6:30 PM on October 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Then along came the idea that people would get more out of choosing from fewer books, so they started putting more and more in the stacks and fewer and fewer actually out in front of patrons.

Erm, this might be a public/academic library split. That's certainly not the philosophy of any academic library I've ever worked in. We believe in putting as many books on the shelves (including virtual shelves) as possible. This is especially useful when a professor assigns the entire class one concept and the entire class descends en masse looking for books on the topic. Curating fewer books would be a horrible idea for most academic libraries!

Also, I'm not sure what 'more and more in the stacks' but 'fewer and fewer in front of patrons' actually means. Stacks are nearly always open to the public in the US (not so in Europe and other areas) and thus putting books in stacks would in fact be putting them in front of patrons.
posted by librarylis at 6:30 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a line by an Aussie singer - 'stoned in a bookstore, sober in a nightclub' - that sums up the awe and sense of weight I feel when I walk into a place with millions of books. I miss that.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:31 PM on October 11, 2011


Stacks are nearly always open to the public in the US (not so in Europe and other areas) and thus putting books in stacks would in fact be putting them in front of patrons.

At least around here - and maybe I was confusing - there are the regular shelves that are right out there in the main body of the library and the "stacks" (maybe this is just folks' colloquialism) that are in the basement and/or require special permission to get to, or else you have to get the book brought to you (though this is rare). Or else the books are warehoused and you request them and it takes a couple of days. And if you do go into the stacks, they are (and this is a perverse complaint) giant, overwhelming shelves that have a bunch of books up higher than your head (a lot higher) and are placed really close together. The net result is that it discourages browsing. All the big public libraries around here have acres and acres and acres of half-empty shelves in the main area, usually full of best-sellers. Seriously, I don't really go to the library much any more because it's so annoying to get anything I actually want. I just buy more books.
posted by Frowner at 6:36 PM on October 11, 2011


That is, is it larger on the inside than on the outside? No? Then would you prefer that the library stop taking in new books altogether? If not, then I think we can all agree that libraries of fixed size which wish to acquire new books must, at some point, remove old ones.

I see someone has already mentioned Nicholson Baker. I will admit that Double Fold is something of a jeremiad, though somewhat less than the FPP link. One of the good points he makes, though, is that for major university and research libraries, it isn't simply a matter of saving money and freeing space by getting rid of books; many of the upgrades they're making in lieu of books (and in particular, towards digitization) cost money too - and someones a bunch more than simple book storage!

In the US at least, storage space isn't at a premium. Not overall. Of course it is in certain urban areas, but many libraries could just get an off-site storage facility some miles away for less than the technology budget they're requesting. It seems at least as valid a request, at least to the extent libraries have a mission of knowledge preservation as well as information access.
posted by rkent at 6:36 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or rather, half full of best sellers
posted by Frowner at 6:37 PM on October 11, 2011


Well, I admit that I know little about the politics of the library. OTOH I'm glad to learn more and be enlightened. I have both a "regular" library card and another that I got which says ACCESS and has my picture on it. It allows me to request books from the stacks, I guess. I got it in college. I still use it, at the main branch in Manhattan.
posted by Splunge at 6:38 PM on October 11, 2011


(And while I'm complaining about libraries today - would it be so hard to have a quiet room? I basically accept that providing internet access is valid, since so many low-income and homeless folks really need to use the web at the library, and thus the main body of the library gets noisy. But could we possibly have a room, just a room, where people can go to read and not to talk?)
posted by Frowner at 6:40 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Shhhhhhhhhhh!
posted by Splunge at 6:41 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've definitely seen closed stacks where you have to specifically request a book, but it was only for rare/fragile type items, not for regular books.

Then again, my wife and I once visited the Seattle Public Library. We were really excited to see a BIG library for once and we had bags set aside to carry all our loot home in. ...We couldn't find any books. Not good ones. Any. It was as Frowner described, only without the shelves of bestsellers. We actually wondered if we were in the wrong building or something. It was weird.

But all the other libraries, of various sizes, I've visited have had shelves and shelves of books. I visit three library systems regularly (not 3 individual libraries, 3 systems of libraries that have interlibrary loan systems). You can find tons and tons and tons of stuff that way.
posted by DU at 6:42 PM on October 11, 2011


At least around here - and maybe I was confusing - there are the regular shelves that are right out there in the main body of the library and the "stacks" (maybe this is just folks' colloquialism) that are in the basement and/or require special permission to get to, or else you have to get the book brought to you (though this is rare)

That sounds like a combination of compact shelving (really high shelves, small aisles, special mechanisms to open the shelves) and off-site storage. Those aren't open stacks, no, and stacks wouldn't be the term typically used to describe that sort of space.

I won't argue about the ridiculous policies of some public libraries who see libraries as gathering places and place books on the outer limits, literally. Los Angeles Public Library system, I am looking at you!

But that presents a difficult question of balance: public welcoming space with computers and study areas versus book-stuff shelves and reference desks? I'll let my public library brethren and sistren weigh in on that, as it's another topic in and of itself (and again, academic libraries do have remote storage, off-site storage, compact shelving, etc. but it's usually because we ran out of room. Except when the provost wants a coffee shop...)
posted by librarylis at 6:43 PM on October 11, 2011


I think you would all love the "The Main Branch". It is a gorgeous building. And while you might find groups from various schools there, there is always a place of calm. I recommend it if you visit this fair city.
posted by Splunge at 6:47 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finally walking into The Main Branch was pretty much as close as I've ever had to a religious experience.
posted by The Whelk at 6:49 PM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


And not one Farenheit 451 reference.
posted by Splunge at 9:21 PM on October 11


Hmmm...I looked that up in Google Books, but there was no free preview, so I don't get your reference.

I keed, I keed, it actually is available ;)

I keed, I keed, I've already read it, dead tree style.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:50 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You, sir, are a mensch as well as a cutie.
posted by Splunge at 6:50 PM on October 11, 2011


That was to The Whelk. But you're probably a cutie too.
posted by Splunge at 6:51 PM on October 11, 2011


Having my bag searched three times in the 15 minutes I was in the Main Branch thoroughly destroyed the experience for me, sadly.
posted by twirlip at 6:51 PM on October 11, 2011


That's sad. When were you there?
posted by Splunge at 6:54 PM on October 11, 2011


Last summer. I was really looking forward to re-enacting some scenes from Ghostbusters, too.
posted by twirlip at 6:58 PM on October 11, 2011


Oh, I am. But I can't hold a candle to the Whelk ;)
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:01 PM on October 11, 2011


most people don't want to read, for example, Lloyd Alexander's Time Cat, the shelf is better if it holds just the books that most people want to read.

that's a great book - I liked it a lot
posted by jb at 7:04 PM on October 11, 2011


The reason I asked, Twirlip, was that I hadn't seen any people being searched as recently as this past August. But then I rarely carry a large bag. I usually have my phone and a pair of prescription sunglasses in a case in my back pocket. I suppose that it's a random thing. Maybe not so random in your case, I don't know why. I wish I could explain it away as a one time thing. But paranoia is also a big thing here in the "Big Apple".

I'm sorry that your time in the library was ruined. That would bug me as well.

Please don't let that stop you from enjoying that fine library in the future. Maybe leave the Proton Pack at home next time? Bad joke, sorry.
posted by Splunge at 7:13 PM on October 11, 2011


That's pretty much the plot seed of Rainbows End

Well, in Rainbows End they were at least being scanned, albeit in a destructive way, by a conglomerate bent on monopolizing the information contained therein. That's actually much better than what's happening today, which is that the books are just being destroyed. I'd rather Microsoft/Google/Apple/EvilCo have scanned the books before they were destroyed, than just send them to the shredded with no hope of ever recovering what was in them.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:14 PM on October 11, 2011


destroying something equivalent to, let's say, the Gutenberg Bible makes me want to go on an almost mad "art thief" type library rampage.

Old, and even indeed irreplaceable, does not equal Gutenberg Bible. Or even, in fact, valuable. Money quote not included in that hysterical piece: "The policy, which until recently required librarians to remove 50,000 volumes each year, does not allow the last Australian copy of any book to be discarded.

We put libraries in an unenviable position, then rail at the choice when we refuse to fund them and have only blunt measures of assessing the (slim) utility of a book that hasn't been borrowed in thirty years or more.

This process has been happening since the invention of libraries themselves. Only in some kind of Borgesian dream is there a library that keeps everything that enters. It is contingent on the existence of libraries that they also destroy books. They are living repositories of cultural mores in addition to knowledge, and as both change so do the libraries.

It's neither new, nor shocking if you really think about it. Another couch sounds appalling, but a lot more students will use it, is the reality, and libraries are ultimately there for the patrons, not the books.
posted by smoke at 7:17 PM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


>You're the first one up against the wall when the book revolution happens.<

I will turn in any of my friends and neighbors who say "What’s the big deal, you can read the ebook?". The whole attitude is so freakin weird to me. Why even keep the great works of art, when we can look at them on the web? Just shred the originals to save space.

This article literally made me nauseous. I did just spend several days looking through a charity book sale and buying a hundred or so old books.

I understand that there are reasons why this happens, but not good ones.
posted by bongo_x at 7:21 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


>Another couch sounds appalling, but a lot more students will use it, is the reality, and libraries are ultimately there for the patrons, not the books.<

You know what else the patrons would like? Video games and cocaine, among other things, but that’s not what libraries are for.

I’m not even just worried about the old Shakespeare texts, I look for the old books that are forgotten, the ones no one reads anymore, the ones you can’t even find mentioned in a web search. I understand why every library can't keep those books, but it’s frustrating that I’m out there looking for something, and someone who doesn’t want it is not only destroying it, but making sure I don’t get it.
posted by bongo_x at 7:29 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ah, the cry of the wounded bureaucrat.

That would hardly be fair for a state agency/entity to do--allow special access to one group.

You can destroy them in secret, but you can't just let someone go through them in secret, eh?
posted by carping demon at 7:34 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know what else the patrons would like? Video games and cocaine, among other things, but that’s not what libraries are for.

I know I've seen computer games being lent out at libraries....
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:35 PM on October 11, 2011


You know what else the patrons would like? Video games and cocaine, among other things, but that’s not what libraries are for.

Ah, so libraries are only there for the things you prioritise. Got it. Also, when you're reduced to comparing a couch to free illegal drugs, I think it's a sign you've wandered a little too far rhetorically speaking.
posted by smoke at 7:39 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's just too bad they couldn't list some of the more interesting/rare books on abebooks or something and use the profits to fund future purchases, but I do understand that it would "cost" the library in terms of time to sort, list, and mail out purchased books and in terms of wages.
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:41 PM on October 11, 2011


(Also: video games are becoming a huge deal at libraries. My local library is hiring volunteers to help with Wii game nights, and my supervisor in library school studies the use of gaming for children in the library).
posted by 1000monkeys at 7:43 PM on October 11, 2011


@frowner

whenever i hear shit about things needing to be more 'curated' i have to go to the bathroom
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:45 PM on October 11, 2011


This is the second time I've come across Antonio Gramsci's name via Metafilter today, and I'd never heard of him before. What an excellent coincidence. Thanks all around.
posted by jwhite1979 at 7:47 PM on October 11, 2011


From the article: A library book is stamped and bugged and cataloged so that the library knows that it belongs to them. When a book is given away or sold, the library has to go through and remove all that crap, so whoever winds up with it can prove they didn't just steal it off the shelf.

Two different library systems I worked at we deleted the books from the computer catalog and put a big old ink "withdrawn" stamp in the book. Took about five seconds, that's no excuse to not donate the books or sell them cheap.

I'm not kidding about that, either -- some people who wind up with such books helpfully return them to the library.

Yeah, that is true.
posted by marxchivist at 7:48 PM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I when I worked at the public library, I always wanted to a display of cool but seldom checked-out books and call the display "Check Me Out or I'll Get Weeded." I could never get management behind that for some reason.
posted by marxchivist at 7:52 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


But that's what's happening at the University of New South Wales in Australia, where books and newspapers dating back to the 1850s have been pulped to make room for more social space, seating room and computers, which Professor Peter Slezak describes as turning the library "into a kind of Starbucks."

Nobody knows how to fucking read in this country anyway so this hardly matters. The systemic destruction of our history and our collective knowledge, even as artefacts and not sources of information, has been going on since our inception. This country has absolutely zero desire to innovate and the overwhelming majority of our citizens have zero desire to learn. Our politicians and "leaders" encourage this by setting the example. We should be world leaders in solar energy but all we can manage to do is introduce a carbon tax and then not apply it to the coal industry, who are the nation's biggest polluters. Our literature is dire, our television reprehensible, our films and other art non-existent. Oh but we've got plenty of football and our kids sure know how to cook.

And the sad thing is we're actually "better off" than just about any other country I can think of.
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:55 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]



Nobody knows how to fucking read in this country anyway so this hardly matters. The systemic destruction of our history and our collective knowledge, even as artefacts and not sources of information, has been going on since our inception. This country has absolutely zero desire to innovate and the overwhelming majority of our citizens have zero desire to learn. Our politicians and "leaders" encourage this by setting the example. We should be world leaders in solar energy but all we can manage to do is introduce a carbon tax and then not apply it to the coal industry, who are the nation's biggest polluters. Our literature is dire, our television reprehensible, our films and other art non-existent. Oh but we've got plenty of football and our kids sure know how to cook.

And the sad thing is we're actually "better off" than just about any other country I can think of.


My theory is that great art is produced from struggle. Since people in Australia don't NEED art, they end up with Henry Lawson and Julia Stone.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:57 PM on October 11, 2011


I think the article might be polarizing the issue a little bit, which is expected. After all, with all of the moral uproar about how dumb our society is getting and how we don't have any cultural values anymore, the article does touch a sensitive point. In fact, the article actually acknowledges this themselves - when word got out to the public that a library was discarding some of their collection, people actually took it onto themselves to actively sabotage the process (the red table and cross-out thing).

Rather, I'd like to trust that there are at least some protocols in place that, while we might not completely agree with, still regulate the process to some degree. While the article does cite several "rare" books being discarded from personal anecdote, I highly doubt that anything historical and irreplaceable is really being thrown away. After all, we all have different criterion for these sorts of things. You can rationalize almost anything. Old journals and magazines - "No! They reflect the values of long-past eras!" Mildew and over-worn items printed in the 19th century - "No! They're historical artefacts!" Even children's books - "No! They represent our childhood memories and passions!"

Obviously, a library has to look past all of that sentimentality, be it personal or otherwise, and look at the brute practicalities: the book is not being read regularly, in bad shape, we're running out of shape, we have to throw it away. Plain and simple.
posted by Conspire at 7:58 PM on October 11, 2011


I've been working for the last year or so in a local historical society. My main job has been to try to turn their collection of documents and old advertisements and things stuffed randomly into file folders and 90 year old high school yearbooks into an actual usable archive. I am trained as a historian, not an archivist, so I've been moving slowly in order to not fuck up anything that I'll later regret doing.

But the conclusion I've gradually come to is that an archive is only as useful as its boundaries and limits, because an archive that is a repository for everything might as well be a repository for nothing. The more focused an archive is, the easier it is for people to evaluate if it might be useful to them. And if they do decide it might be, it is easier to find things in a clearly focused archive than in a vaguely focused one because in the latter a researcher is going to have to wade through a lot more irrelevant stuff just to get to the interesting bits. In some ways, I think the most important part of any archive is what you choose not to include.

An archive is a different animal than a library, but I think the importance of boundaries is true in libraries as well. Libraries may have wider boundaries than an archive, but they've definitely got them. This is why an academic library has a different book collection than a public library, and why the Library of Congress doesn't actually contain every book ever made. Therefore, the idea that a library should hold onto every single book they've ever had strikes me as a really good way to turn a perfectly good library into a completely non-functional library, because it's basically saying that libraries should never define their own boundaries or enforce them.

For example, I imagine if there was never any turnover in a public library's book collection, every time a new mother went looking for books about pregnancy or child-rearing, she would have an impossible time finding anything current among all of the outdated advice. And maybe in an ideal world, those out-of-date child-rearing books would get sent to a special "Child-rearing in the Past" archive, but I can understand how sometimes they just get thrown out.
posted by colfax at 8:08 PM on October 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


In what sense is a digital version of a book not the same thing as a print edition? Both are mass produced and contain the same information. The analogy to a singular work of art makes little sense except as a fetishizing of the book as an object, not a container for ideas.
posted by spitbull at 8:09 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Second of all, my library just finished up its semi-annual booksale oh, three days ago. We had a meeting today which discussed what to do with the books which didn't sell.

My local library has a large semi-annual sale but also a monthly sale -- buy a grocery bag of books for ~$5, less if you're a Friend of the Library. This takes place in their bookstore which is open the rest of the month as well, where you can get great deals on all kinds of titles.

I occasionally wind up donating books back to them to sell again.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:12 PM on October 11, 2011


What the fuck is wrong with Henry Lawson?
posted by pompomtom at 8:17 PM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


To all haters of Cracked's style: Would you rather this sort of information not get out?

It has nothing to do with the style, it's just a silly article on its face. Libraries weed. It's not like its some big secret.

Check out Awful Library Books for the sorts of things that form the vast majority of what gets weeded.
posted by waitingtoderail at 8:18 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


@marxchivist: Something like that was suggested by one of the speakers in a weeding webinar I watched last week. It didn't actually state in so many words that it was a "last chance" display, but that was the purpose and effect. IIRC, she said it worked pretty well.
posted by bentley at 8:24 PM on October 11, 2011


If anyone wants to know more about weeding in public libraries: here's the list of weeding resources mentioned by one of the speakers at that webinar.
posted by bentley at 8:31 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Check out Awful Library Books for the sorts of things that form the vast majority of what gets weeded.

"his is cataloged as a juvenile biography. Save your shelf space for biographies of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, because kids today probably don’t know who the Beach Boys are."

I'm seething with rage. Hahahaha a cheap biography of what is now considered one of the greatest pop groups of all time!
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:34 PM on October 11, 2011


"But the conclusion I've gradually come to is that an archive is only as useful as its boundaries and limits, because an archive that is a repository for everything might as well be a repository for nothing."

That's why search engines are so important.
posted by Yakuman at 8:36 PM on October 11, 2011


The article also doesn't do itself any favours by conflating public lending and reference libraries.

Essentially, public libraries are and always have been places to cultivate and disseminate culture. Which is why they do hold and loan videogames, music CDs, and movie DVDs. Reference libraries are a whole different thing altogether, being places for the storage of culture and cultural artifacts.

University libraries fall somewhere in-between - and, if as seems to be the case with the UNSW library, the items were available in physical form elsewhere, I don't see the real problem.

"Since people in Australia don't NEED art, they end up with Henry Lawson and Julia Stone."


That's about as silly as saying "Since Americans don't NEED art, they end up with Mark Twain and Bruce Springsteen".

Now if you were to argue that the problem with Australian art is that it's almost all introspective (like Twain and Springsteen above), and that trait is damaging to its quality and wider acceptance, then I'd be right there with you. But there's plenty of counter-examples to that too - Dorothea MacKellar, Albert Namatjira, the Boyds & Lindsays, Judith Wright, Kath Walker, etc; not to mention the dozens or hundreds of musicians, from the likes of Melba and Grainger right up to what's being played on JJJ Unearthed.

I tend to agree with your examples - Angus & Julia Stone, for instance, are a blight on the local music landscape - but drawing such a large argument from your limited cultural understanding is just silly.
posted by Pinback at 8:38 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Libraries. Please send one (1) of each unwanted book to me. I'll try to cover shipping. But I'm not exactly wealthy.
posted by Splunge at 8:39 PM on October 11, 2011


I get sent anywhere from ten to forty books a week by publishers, from ARCs to finished books, and I still buy books on a frequent basis. Which means in the course of a year I can add a couple thousand books to my household with almost no effort on my part.

A few weeks ago we cleaned out our basement, during which I ended up tossing a few hundred books, most in ARC form. I tossed them because publishers don't like them being put out on the market and my local library won't use them for book sales. It's possible I could have given some of them away, but there were a lot more that no one would have been interested in (hey, some books sell next to nothing for a reason). In the end, and despite the fact that books are my livelihood and I love them more than just about any other physical object in the world, the simplest thing to do was put them into the dumpster we'd rented. I believe the company we hired the dumpster from was planning to sort recyclables on their end, so at least there was that.

That still left me with several hundred near-mint finished books I need to be rid of. Those are going to be donated to the local library, which will take a few into their holding (and then commensurately removed some other books to make room for them) and sell the rest at their book sales. The books I kept (largely books written by friends) fill up the new shelves I just had built to accommodate the large number of books.

Meanwhile, ten to forty new books come in each week.
posted by jscalzi at 8:39 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]



Now if you were to argue that the problem with Australian art is that it's almost all introspective (like Twain and Springsteen above), and that trait is damaging to its quality and wider acceptance, then I'd be right there with you. But there's plenty of counter-examples to that too - Dorothea MacKellar, Albert Namatjira, the Boyds & Lindsays, Judith Wright, Kath Walker, etc; not to mention the dozens or hundreds of musicians, from the likes of Melba and Grainger right up to what's being played on JJJ Unearthed.


Nah I'm kidding about the music. There's Perry Keyes (basically, Springsteen if he grew up in Redfern and drove a cab) and a bunch of great old pub rock bands. But in general. I think things do tend to be a bit easy/rural/surfy. But I'll drop out of this derail. I honestly posted this link before realizing that it had a bit about my uni.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:41 PM on October 11, 2011


(shit - cut'n'pasted the wrong list. Replace MacKellar et al. with Russell, Bunney, the Lindsays, Preston, Johnson, Piccinini, etc.)
posted by Pinback at 8:45 PM on October 11, 2011


I'm seething with rage. Hahahaha a cheap biography of what is now considered one of the greatest pop groups of all time!

You're griping about a 30 year old biography of a group that's gone through a lot of changes in that time. It probably doesn't include any of their post 70s material!

It needs to be weeded because kids don't know who the Beach Boys are (this is important: that material will likely stay in the adult section because that's the appropriate section for acts whose target demographic now skews older) but also because it's not currently accurate. It's probably also in bad shape (being 30 years old and circulating at a public library). These are all excellent reasons to weed the book.

NB: if you don't know about weeding standards for libraries (they're helpfully linked above), you should read about weeding standards for libraries before getting too stressed. Awful Library Books may be a bit too advanced for a primer on the topic.
posted by librarylis at 8:47 PM on October 11, 2011


Oh, I don't doubt all of those books should be weeded (except stuff like Lester Bangs' cheapo Blondio bio and Neil Gaiman's Duran Duran bio). I just don't see the point of mocking them on a blog.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:51 PM on October 11, 2011


Our university library just converted two full floors to desks, sofas and computers and removed all the books from those floors to a warehouse in another suburb. At first I was outraged, especially since it included almost all the books in my field. But now I am liking it greatly. It used to be I had to walk over to the library and hunt books down myself. Now I send a digital request and some minion in the warehouse scans the chapters I want to read and emails them to me. Within 24 hours!

But it occurs to me after reading this thing that maybe they didn't warehouse all the books and burned half of them instead.

Also, the thing about librarians not being allowed to save specific books reminds me (on a much lesser scale) of when I used to work in a supermarket. Once a week (and even more frequently post Easter) we went through and threw away all the broken chocolate bars. I was not allowed to eat said chocolate bars, give them away, or take them home, because that would be an unfair employee perk, and also if people found out that broken chocolate bars came from our supermarket, it might lower its reputation. So they got thrown into dumpsters. I hope that freegans found them, but probably not, as the dumpsters were locked.
posted by lollusc at 9:11 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm seething with rage. Hahahaha a cheap biography of what is now considered one of the greatest pop groups of all time!

I don't know, man. That book's got Mike Love on the cover but no Brian Wilson. I say burn it.
posted by The World Famous at 9:16 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I used to be rabid about My Books. They were precious to me. I had a bunch of crap I'd bought in the past and wanted to get rid of but somehow I never got around to it.

Then I lost all my books in a hurricane. Well, like 90% of them, there were some still at my mom's place. And it hurt, yeah. But I've gotten a lot less attached to the physical manifestation of stuff, as a result.

I just bought Pratchett's new novel, for instance. I dithered about buying the physical copy as it was a mere $1 more than the Kindle copy (which honestly speaks more to the book being too pricey, I feel like the right price is more like $5 than $11 - maybe I'm just still operating on habits built buying lots of paperbacks in the 80s) but decided that it would be more stuff to have to haul around for the rest of my life.

Fetishizing the container is useless, in my current view. Is the e-book just as readable? Yep. Moreso; I can curl up in my living room with the iPad, then I can get on the bus with nothing but my phone, wallet, and keys, and keep reading from where I left off. And it takes up no mass.

There are affordances to the physical container; a nicely-displayed collection IS much easier to browse than a bunch of anonymous files. But someone will solve that eventually.

I think the real problem libraries face right now is a lack of funding, though. Ain't no money for them to "properly" dispose of those books, never mind expand and keep all of them. Ain't no money for much of any of these public betterment things like schools or healthcare. And I'd better stop here before this turns into a political rant...
posted by egypturnash at 9:20 PM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]



I just bought Pratchett's new novel, for instance. I dithered about buying the physical copy as it was a mere $1 more than the Kindle copy (which honestly speaks more to the book being too pricey, I feel like the right price is more like $5 than $11 - maybe I'm just still operating on habits built buying lots of paperbacks in the 80s) but decided that it would be more stuff to have to haul around for the rest of my life.

Fetishizing the container is useless, in my current view. Is the e-book just as readable? Yep. Moreso; I can curl up in my living room with the iPad, then I can get on the bus with nothing but my phone, wallet, and keys, and keep reading from where I left off. And it takes up no mass.


What about the cost of all that tech? We're fine, but people who have no money should still be able to entertain and educate themselves with cheap paperbacks.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:24 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


They just built a new library in my town, replacing the triple-wide mobile home that was the smallest library in the entire large county library system. The new building is nice to look at and has much more light inside. It must have cost a lot of my tax payer money.

Inside, there is much more space for couches and computers and such. There is more room for the staff. What there isn't is more books. It has exactly the same number of books that the triple-wide had. The shelves are short and widely spaced. Half the those shelves have DVDs and other non-book material. The amount of wasted space is appalling.

They could easily move the shelves closer together and make them taller and move some books from other libraries in the system. However, I think the idea is that having a lot of books isn't the purpose of a public library any more. Instead it is to be the local Starbucks with computer terminals.

On another note, I have a library in my home, all sorted by Library of Congress catalog numbers. I am out of shelf space and badly need to weed. However, destroying information is just against my nature...seriously, I'd rather have a root canal. So if some librarians want to post about how they decide what to weed, I'd really like to know.
posted by Xoc at 9:40 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


the right price is more like $5 than $11 - maybe I'm just still operating on habits built buying lots of paperbacks in the 80s)

Holy shit, you can get paperbacks for $11??? The newest Terry Pratchett isn't available in paperback here yet (the hardback is $39.99, which is US $39.50). The second-to-newest one is $19.99 at my nearest bookshop, and that's not a bad price. Most newish paperbacks here in Australia are around $25.
posted by lollusc at 9:50 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Which, given I go through about three novels a week, is why I use libraries).
posted by lollusc at 9:51 PM on October 11, 2011


Amazon or used bookstores. Aussie prices are nuts.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:52 PM on October 11, 2011


What about the cost of all that tech? We're fine, but people who have no money should still be able to entertain and educate themselves with cheap paperbacks.

The tech keeps on dropping in price. I think in the not-too-distant future you'll be able to buy a perfectly serviceable e-reader for about the price of a cheap paperback. You can get a paperback-sized Kindle for US$80 now.
posted by egypturnash at 9:56 PM on October 11, 2011


Lollusc, you want the Book Depository.
posted by pompomtom at 9:56 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


My library got embiggened considerably last year. Major additions included a huge number of internet workstations, more conference and work space, seemingly more floor space for DVDs, and video game stations for teens. There were community fundraisers to pay for a lot of nice extras as well. Interestingly, the coffee shop they had before was factored into the redesign.

Still, they cull books like everyone else, for the usual reasons. Hopefully, when the majority of loaned items are eBooks, they won't have to cull those as well.
posted by ZeusHumms at 11:22 PM on October 11, 2011


In what sense is a digital version of a book not the same thing as a print edition?

A print edition can be read when the power goes out, is accessible to the human eye without any specialized device, and if left alone in benign conditions will last for hundreds of years. At least as of right now, digital media degrade over time, and the equipment and software used to access them become obsolete even faster. I have physical copies of papers I wrote in college twenty years ago that are still perfectly legible. The 5 1/4" floppy disks I used to save the digital copies, not so much. Even if the media had lasted, I doubt I could find an Apple II and a copy of AppleWriter word processing software to access the information on them.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:30 AM on October 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Xoc, you can learn about weeding by dumping the following into Google:

"weeding guidelines"|"deselection guidelines" library

Speaking from personal experience, when weeding I've used or heard colleagues use guidelines like:

* Not more than [X] check-outs in the last [Y] years. For some libraries that's at least one checkout in twenty years, in others it's at least one in the last two--depends on your need.

* Has the book been superseded by a later, authoritative edition?

* Is it a duplicate? If so, do you actually need two copies of the same book? For home purposes, I usually either sell or donate duplicate copies, or I give them away to friends. Er, Lovecraftiana excepted; I don't seem to be able to let go of extra tentacles.

* Is it a large set of books that has been superseded by either a more condensed printing or an online version?

* Is there some substantial benefit to patrons in keeping a book if doing so means that resources will be invested, in some minimal way, in keeping it in good shape, and that other things will not be able to occupy the same space (books or people)? Home library corollary: if you are moving in the next couple years, do you really want to move this book with you, and has it gone unread since your last move? Home library corollary the second: would you be happier with a potted plant/stereo/easel where the current book shelf/pile is located?

* For home use, What is my actual need for the book--say, within the next five years? If it's something I can get from a library, Abebooks, etc., I often let it go.

* For home use, if it's something I bought on a whim and haven't touched in five years, I will usually discard it.
posted by cupcakeninja at 3:54 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


A print edition can be read when the power goes out, is accessible to the human eye without any specialized device

Not if there's no light, they can't. A book *is* a "specialized device." Printing a book uses trees and other resources; shipping and storing them uses energy. In fact, a lot more energy, at the margin, than having thousands of books in digital form on an e-reader. I'm an academic. I own several thousand books of my own, accumulated over a now 25 year path from BA to PhD to tenure. Every time I move, change jobs, switch offices, that book collection uses an *enormous* amount of human and fossil fuel energy to transport (in "specialized devices" called trucks). As someone pointed out above, the e-reader is becoming ubiquitous. Basic ones cost barely more than 5 or 6 books would cost, and they open up a universe of free literature that no longer requires you to drive to a building somewhere to buy or borrow a book. And e-books that cost money cost less than paper books (although it should be lower still), so if you buy books, you save the cost of the e-reader very quickly, as some above have pointed out.

If the power goes out permanently, civilization has bigger worries. The modern paper book is as dependent on fossil fuel-power as any e-reader.

Maybe libraries should loan out e-readers, not just e-books. But in fact, on balance, paper books cost more than electronic books, not just at retail, but throughout the entire useful life of the product.


and if left alone in benign conditions will last for hundreds of years. At least as of right now, digital media degrade over time, and the equipment and software used to access them become obsolete even faster.


I happen to work in digital archiving, so I know this problem. But truthfully, paper degrades over time at a much faster rate than digital files do. Digital obsolescence (deprecated and proprietary file formats, etc) is another deal. But unless a paper book is printed on high quality, expensive acid-free paper, and expensively stored and handled and limited in circulation, the average modern paperback falls apart just sitting on a shelf for a decade, let alone in use. A hardcover might give you 50 years. Creating and storing paper books with more longevity drives up their price initially, and the cost of storing and preserving them, limiting their accessibility.

Digital preservation is coming along very nicely now. It isn't the floppy drive era. We've learned a lot from the last 30 years about file format migration, stable storage, multiple storage formats, offsite backup, the limits of plastic and metal, the mold that eats CDs and DVDs, etc. Since I work with early 20th c. audio, I have a different perspective on this. No format has lasted more than 40 years or so as a standard, not even reel to reel tape. It's a simple challenge to migrate your media forward, and now that it's all digital, this is done without any generational loss to speak of.

So these are really over-stated concerns, in my view. A digital book has *many* advantages over a paper book that make up for the concerns and challenges. The most important of these are portability and searchability, two reasons the book was invented in the first place and refined over many centuries as an information delivery system. As a scholar, I am always amused when people ask me if I miss the dusty stacks I never visit anymore. I laugh, because it is *so* much more powerful for me to be able to type in a keyword in a database and pull up *everything* related to my search from every library in the country, or all the collections in my university, or even my own growing stack of digitally archived documents. I don't have to plod through introductions and boring parts to find the paragraph I needed. I don't have to waste an hour going to the library, or worry about taking care of the books and returning them on time, or break my back hauling 20 pounds of books from which I need 5 paragraphs of content (it's not like reading fiction; a scholar needs bibliographic efficiency). I can cut,paste, annotate and save anything I need to my own archive. I can move thousands of books in my pocket, instead of needing 4 guys and a truck and 50 boxes to move from one building to another on campus.

I have physical copies of papers I wrote in college twenty years ago that are still perfectly legible.

You can, of course, always *print out* anything you wish to save in hard copy. Data loss is a serious concern with digital media, but the advantages are so great that the concern can be dealt with and is being dealt with by many companies, libraries, and archives. Books can be stolen; they can be burned; they can be defaced and ruined by one careless act.

Not to mention the far greater accessibility, on a macro and global scale, of digital archives and libraries, and, for example, the possibility of quick machine translation of works that are otherwise unlikely ever to be formally translated into many different languages.

It's amusing to me that we'd be debating this on our laptops and smartphones. I tell people who don't want to hear this all the time: the paper book is going fast. In academia, in a decade, there will be almost no new paper books being produced (can't speak for trade publishing, but the dynamics are the same; the advantages of digital formats for academic publishing are even greater however, given the small market for most titles on paper).

The 5 1/4" floppy disks I used to save the digital copies, not so much. Even if the media had lasted, I doubt I could find an Apple II and a copy of AppleWriter word processing software to access the information on them.

If you were a digital archive or library, you would have migrated those files every couple of years since writing them to new formats and storage media. Consumer-level users of information technology need to know more about doing this, and the digital media industry needs to do more to facilitate it, although they are quite aware of the problem and as formats and media stabilize this will be less of an issue. The PDF (a proprietary format, which bugs me) has become as standard for print as the PCM (Wav/AIFF) is for music. The sheer amount of material in these formats means they will not disappear, or if they do, the problem of upconverting to whatever comes next will be so widespread that solving it will be very profitable.

Last year I boxed up about 2000 of my books and took them out of my office to storage, where I haven't looked at them since. The last 1500 or so of my current work library will go next summer, other than few sentimental volumes, inscribed volumes, and photography books with beautiful prints in them.
posted by spitbull at 4:24 AM on October 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I envision a giant landfill in the desert southwest. Things keep for very long periods in there, right? It's dual-purpose 1) post-nuclear reconstruction of contemporary beach boys folklore 2) carbon sequestration.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:34 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"... the average modern paperback falls apart just sitting on a shelf for a decade"
posted by spitbull

My more than 40 years old average modern paperbacks say "Bullshit".
posted by Termite at 5:47 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


But unless a paper book is printed on high quality, expensive acid-free paper, and expensively stored and handled and limited in circulation, the average modern paperback falls apart just sitting on a shelf for a decade, let alone in use. A hardcover might give you 50 years.

This is loopy. I am sitting in a room with thousands of paperbacks, most of which I have owned for well over a decade (during which time they have not just sat on a shelf, but been read, loaned out, moved house two or three times, and often as not bumped around the bottom of backpacks for weeks at a time). The number that have fallen apart is in single digits. There are also a couple thousand hardcovers, some of which are over a century old, and they show no signs of imminent disintegration. What am I doing wrong?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:33 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the reaction of the librarians, etc. in this thread can be summed up as:

"What's the big deal? I have to deal with this reality every day; get over it."

While this reaction initially surprised me, it makes sense that those on the front lines of this issue would be the most desensitized to it. But the fact is that the majority of us aren't on the front lines. It is shocking for us to learn about this. For me, this was the first time I'd given much thought to "weeding," and certainly the first time I'd been exposed to the idea that one solution in practice is to simply destroy the books.

Which brings me back to my first thought upon "cracking" the article: I appreciate that the author has shone a light upon this dark reality of the human experience. Armed with this new knowledge that my borrowing habits may well shape the libraries of tomorrow, and that each day decreases the likelihood that those cool old library books of my imagination are still waiting for me, I head into a future hopefully filled with a lot more library books!
posted by mantecol at 7:51 AM on October 12, 2011


*glares angrily while hugging books to chest*
posted by warbaby at 7:51 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


In what sense is a digital version of a book not the same thing as a print edition?

In the same sense that a work of art is not the same thing as its reproduction. I owe my knowledge of most of the world's art to reproductions, so I'm not knocking them, but no one would, or should, confuse the two. From a historical or scholarly point of view, the actual, physical book can yield information about the contemporary book production techniques, reading habits, textual history, literary or cultural context, etc., that a digital version of the same book won't. To someone who only wants or needs the book's "content" that isn't important—and that's fine—but it does make the digital version of a book and a printed copy of the same different things. At least for now.

If you were a digital archive or library, and if you had the time, money, and staff, you would have migrated those files every couple of years since writing them to new formats and storage media

On the specific story under discussion, smoke and librarylis seem to get it right.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:55 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


But unless a paper book is printed on high quality, expensive acid-free paper, and expensively stored and handled and limited in circulation, the average modern paperback falls apart just sitting on a shelf for a decade, let alone in use. A hardcover might give you 50 years.

I completely agree with just about everything you have written, but I should point out that even modern books are a little more stable than that. I have 30 year-old to 50 year-old paperbacks, and a few early-mid twentieth century hardcovers (c1930-1950) which are very acidic, but not yet dust, though they are delicate and don't try to fold any pages. They may be stable for even longer, with careful handling.

Wheras pre-modern paper is extremely stable; books from the 17th century are just yellowed and little and not that brittle. But, of course, they made better paper then (out of cotton, low-or-no acid).
posted by jb at 9:10 AM on October 12, 2011


I think we actually have a coming digital archive crisis: many smaller organisations and institutions may have excellent paper archives, but no one knows how to properly archive their electronic documents. It's a different paradigm - not one of preservation, but of constantly copying again and again (keeping it electronically alive). I actually worked in a very old institution which had day to day records going back to the 1400s - but which petered out in the 1990s as things went to email and other electronic records. And neither the ancient nor the modern archivist knew the first thing about computers, and the computer people knew nothing of archiving.
posted by jb at 9:14 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


My more than 40 years old average modern paperbacks say "Bullshit".
posted by Termite at 8:47 AM on October 12



40 years ago, books were printed on much higher quality paper. And even so, I suspect if you were loaning those books out on a regular basis they'd be long gone. Sorry, but this is just true. The longevity of modern paper is a well known constant. Ideal storage conditions help, but nothing lasts indefinitely on organic material.

In the same sense that a work of art is not the same thing as its reproduction.

And I say this is nonsense. Some books are physical works of publishing art, but most are just delivery vehicles for words.

The angry tone in some of these responses is so telling, as if this revolution in information science was somehow intended to destroy knowledge, or as if books were singular objects. As I said, you can always print out a digital file, on high quality paper if you like. A book is not like a Van Gogh painting. Reading it in a cheap paperback or an e-book or a beautiful hardcover amounts to exactly the same experience unless it really matters to you that you hold a particular kind of object in your hands. Books as objects for display? Fine. But as text delivery vehicles, they are becoming obsolete, and the fetishization of the paper book is pure nostalgia.
posted by spitbull at 9:35 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the commodity fetishism could be taken further: by the analogy to works of fine art, the author's original typescript should be a higher quality reading experience than even the most beautifully published version of it.

I have nothing against book collecting. But to me, as a scholar, books are information, not objects.
posted by spitbull at 9:37 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


jscalzi, do you live near a hospital? The hospital I work at is always looking for books. Patients start reading them while they're admitted, and then take them home to finish them, so they always need more. I bet they would take ARCs (not, probably, knowing what they are) and I know they'd take your other extras. You could do a monthly run and depending on the hospital they might even give you a charitable receipt for in-kind donation (my hospital doesn't, but I've heard of it happening). Call the main switchboard and ask for whoever handles in-kind donations (here it's Volunteer Services).
posted by joannemerriam at 9:37 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Prisons need books too.
posted by spitbull at 9:39 AM on October 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


My more than 40 years old average modern paperbacks say "Bullshit".
- me
40 years ago, books were printed on much higher quality paper.
- spitbull

Maybe, but my 30, 20 or 10 year old books also call bullshit.

The subject interests me and I did a feature article on paper and digital storage a year ago; the national archivist I interviewed said that archivists have changed their opinion about pulp (acidic) paper. They no longer believe it will disintegrate in ~100 years. For real longevity, of course, you need acid free paper, or paper made from rags, as in the 16th-18th century.
posted by Termite at 9:47 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


NPR story about this FPP mentions Metafilter:
And it created a heated discussion not only on that site, but also where I found it, at Metafilter.
posted by stbalbach at 9:50 AM on October 12, 2011


Libraries. Please send one (1) of each unwanted book to me. I'll try to cover shipping. But I'm not exactly wealthy.

100,000 books? Sure. You can come pick them up. Enjoy the 1967 children's guide to the Soviet Union, it's my personal fave.

Seriously though, in an ideal world libraries would make a list of every book they planned on weeding and make it available for a month or more so people can challenge or request the book. Who's going to pay for the additional hours and man/woman power to do that? Are you willing to have your property taxes raised? Is it better to dump them on the street in front of the building?
posted by waitingtoderail at 9:52 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


For preserving book content I recommend 1dollarscan.com .. mail them your book and they'll scan it and send you the PDF via email. $1 per 100 pages. You don't get the book back (they de-bind it for the scanner, pulp it afterwards). I used it and the scans are good quality and good service.
posted by stbalbach at 9:54 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


A print edition can be read when the power goes out, is accessible to the human eye without any specialized device

Not if there's no light, they can't.


Well, if the sun burns out in the next couple of hundred years, we'll have a bigger problem than information storage.

But unless a paper book is printed on high quality, expensive acid-free paper, and expensively stored and handled and limited in circulation, the average modern paperback falls apart just sitting on a shelf for a decade, let alone in use.

Whaaa? I have paperbacks printed in the 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's in my house, and none of them have spontaneously self-destructed. Most of them were acquired at used-book stores, so have been through use before they got into my hands, and since have been read and re-read, not to mentioned boxed for several house moves, stacked on the floor next to my bed, carried in purses and backpacks, knocked about by children and cats, and lived in climates which are definitely not ideal archival preservation environments.

If you were a digital archive or library, you would have migrated those files every couple of years since writing them to new formats and storage media. Consumer-level users of information technology need to know more about doing this, and the digital media industry needs to do more to facilitate it, although they are quite aware of the problem and as formats and media stabilize this will be less of an issue.

I think this minimizes the time, effort, money involved. I know about digital preservation, and I also know that the public and academic libraries hereabouts are laying off staff due to lack of money. They're not investing in the expertise and equipment required to make that effort every couple of years.

I don't fetishize books as objects. I love e-books for my personal use. My Kindle is probably my most favorite consumer device ever. I'm not one of those people who thinks that libraries should preserve everything they have, including shelves of "World Book Encyclopedia 1975" and "Microsoft Word for Windows 3.0". I wrote a paper in library school about how to manage public relations around weeding decisions, and the problems that can arise when people perceive "the library is throwing out books!" I would wholeheartedly welcome a more comprehensive effort to digitally preserve library holdings; for one thing, I might be able to get a job. But I don't see it happening on the scale it needs to, and I fear that the money for funding such things is shrinking rather than growing.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:10 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


And I say this is nonsense. Some books are physical works of publishing art, but most are just delivery vehicles for words.

You can be right and what I wrote can still not be "nonsense." Most books are just delivery vehicles for content. I don't disagree with that. Some books are works of art, most aren't. I don't disagree with that, either. Mostly, general readers only want or need the words and that's just fine. Increasingly, those readers will be served by some kind of digital media and that's just fine, too. But, yes, it's true, regardless of your assertions to the contrary, that to people who study such things, books as physical objects do yield information about a variety of historical, cultural and textual matters. That's a difference between digital and physical books.

The angry tone in some of these responses is so telling ... But as text delivery vehicles, they are becoming obsolete, and the fetishization of the paper book is pure nostalgia.

Pure nostalgia? That's the only thing it can be? Nothing else? You know, I think I'm hearing the tone of a zealot here, someone determined that there is only one true way, so maybe the angry tone you think you're hearing is just the infidel's cries of dismay.

There's enough room in the world for digital media and printed books, just as there's room for vinyl records and digital music. Different kinds of objects do different things; one doesn't need to be superior in every way to the other.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:33 AM on October 12, 2011


Destroying a book is alien to me.
posted by Splunge at 1:56 AM on October 12


Me too, unless it's by David Foster Wallace.
posted by Decani at 10:49 AM on October 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The angry tone in some of these responses is so telling,

I cannot speak for others, but if you believe I have an angry tone, you are mistaking shock and bafflement for anger. I had no idea that the hundred of linear feet of shelves all around me contained piles of dust; I could have sworn those were books. Look, if we were talking about cars and a self-identified automotive expert informed everyone confidently that most new cars last ten to twenty thousand miles tops before they are scrap, you have to think he might get questioned and challenged on this assertion.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:18 AM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I work in digital archiving, with fragile and unique materials. I own thousands of books. I have spent a good part of my life in libraries becoming a tenured professor. Books are important to me too.

So are classic muscle cars. And vintage computers.

From the front lines of information science and book production (did I mention I'm a published author with a book to my name, and many articles?) I can tell you the paper book is dying, and it isn't going to be saved. The value added by digital technology is inexorably more efficient, stable, and lower in cost in the long run, and for many kinds of reader/user of books, it is a superior technology.

I have a collection of first edition books of my own, mostly classics of Native Americanist anthropology. I cherish them and treat them like works of art. I get it.

But bemoaning the death of the paper book will not bring it back. It's a legacy technology. Someone will always want them, someone will always make a few of them, they will become luxury objects. But what I care about is the knowledge inside those books, and how we preserve that for future generations. I don't advocate burning books, but I do advocate getting over the nostalgia so prominently on display here. It's over, just like horses and buggies.
posted by spitbull at 11:25 AM on October 12, 2011


Most new cars will last 10 years and approximately 150-200K miles if well taken care of. Sure, I know people who restore old cars, or maintain their high end cars so meticulously that they still run well at 400K miles, but to do so is costly, and preserves technology that is wonderful, but obsolete and far less efficient than a modern car. Your 1968 Dodge Charger (which was designed to last 10 years and run about 100K miles, terribly wastefully), perfectly restored, is a thing of beauty, and I'd always want a few of them to exist somewhere, but if everyone drove them to work we'd have far less fuel to go around and far more highway fatalities. Just the facts. A cheap modern car is many times safer and more fuel efficient that the state of the automotive art from 20 years ago.

We make things to use them up. We can make them last longer, but preserving things (which generally requires taking them out of circulation and common use) is a fool's errand. The average trade paperback book is printed in tens of thousands of copies, many of which are destroyed by the publisher when they don't sell. Most of them are *expected* to give a few years of usable service.

I think people who are sentimental about paper books are actually sentimental about their own experiences acquiring and reading those books. Books feel like old friends. They shape our thinking and feeling in profound ways. But every day they sit on a shelf, they are decaying faster than you might think. Your 40 year old trade paperbacks? Maybe still legible but in most cases I promise you the paper is brittle, the binding glue is dried out, and if you actually used those books on a regular basis they would not stand up to the punishment. Books sit on shelves. Shelves are real estate. Real estate is expensive. Books need to be moved and the weigh a lot. Moving heavy things is very expensive, and bad for the planet because of the fossil fuel required (not to mention the trees and inks, which is not to say that digital tech doesn't exact serious environmental costs as well, but I am willing to bet that on balance the shift to digital media will preserve precious resources). We view books as instruments of democracy, but in fact digital availability of information is radically empowering communities that could never afford to build libraries full of paper books.

I'm not condoning the wholesale destruction of books, but the best solution to the surplus of unwanted books is undoubtedly to digitize the lot of them, and put one or two copies of each in safe storage somewhere just in case we ever need to do it again.
posted by spitbull at 11:34 AM on October 12, 2011


Your 40 year old trade paperbacks? Maybe still legible but in most cases I promise you the paper is brittle, the binding glue is dried out, and if you actually used those books on a regular basis they would not stand up to the punishment.

Agreed, but there is a considerable difference between, "if you use these objects regularly, they will fall apart in forty years" (this is true of most consumer goods, I would imagine) and, "even if carefully stored, they will fall apart in ten years" which was the assertion you made earlier today.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:58 PM on October 12, 2011


the best solution to the surplus of unwanted books is undoubtedly to digitize the lot of them, and put one or two copies of each in safe storage somewhere just in case we ever need to do it again.

After you digitize them, who gets the remaining copy of Shakespeare's first folio? (Presumably, the Folger gets to keep one.)

The best solution to a surplus of unwanted books is exactly what libraries do now, weeding followed by disposal, giving/selling them to new readers where possible, pulping them where that isn't. In the case of a surplus of wanted books, they can be usually be lived with until additional space is found to store them. In neither instance is digitization—for all its virtues as an information technology—an economical alternative to the storage of existing books.

Now if your point is that in the future electronic books and digital media will occupy an increasingly large niche in the information ecology, then, yes, I think that's both true and obvious. If your point is that it sure would be nice if someone would digitize all the world's books for people who haven't access to them, then, yes, it sure would be nice. If your point is that digital media are unquestionably superior in every way to printed books, that they will sweep away the remnants of the dying book industry and by doing so deliver democracy to the masses, and that any skepticism regarding all this is merely the result of a "nostalgia" which must be "gotten over," then let me say that I liked Filippo Marinetti better the first time.

(did I mention I'm a published author with a book to my name, and many articles?)

If you must appeal to your own credentials, then at least tell us what they are. It's the done thing in an information-transparent society.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:59 PM on October 12, 2011


That would hardly be fair for a state agency/entity to do--allow special access to one group.

You could allow bidding for the rights. Getting rid of books seems like it's the perfect sort of thing for the private sector to do. It might be that pulping most of the books would still be the most economic thing, but they would be better motivated to find any books that are actually worth selling.
posted by grouse at 2:46 PM on October 12, 2011


This reminds me, my local library is having a book sale, at least one supposedly bigger than the perpetual book sale corner.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:34 PM on October 12, 2011


Enjoy the 1967 children's guide to the Soviet Union, it's my personal fave.

Sounds fascinating. I'll take it!
posted by pompomtom at 3:35 PM on October 12, 2011


A print edition can be read when the power goes out, is accessible to the human eye without any specialized device

Not if there's no light, they can't.


What if you're a big reader but everyone around you makes fun of you for it so you go into a bank vault to read in peace and there's a nuclear war but a library survives so you finally have time to read and then your glasses break?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:35 PM on October 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if books make good fireplace kindling.
posted by ZeusHumms at 3:36 PM on October 12, 2011


My theory is that great art is produced from struggle. Since people in Australia don't NEED art, they end up with Henry Lawson and Julia Stone.Lovecraft In Brooklyn
Julia Stone is better than chocolate cake and cocaine.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:08 PM on October 12, 2011


Depressing.
posted by TrinsicWS at 4:00 AM on October 13, 2011


I prefer that we mock old library books before we pulp them.

Yeah, this link is a valuable counterpoint. I love books as much as the next guy -- hell, as much as the next two or three guys -- but there is some stuff that need not stay in circulation. Non-fiction typically starts becoming dated the minute it comes off the printing press and while some of these are just quaint (Instructional books on The Macarena! Troubleshooting guides for Lotus1-2-3! Quickie biographies of the cast of The Facts of Life!), some are pretty hideous.

My local library system used to have a 1940's guide to dialects and accents for radio actors, including helpful scripts to practice (stereo)typical situations. As someone whose ancestors emigrated from Ireland during the potato famine, I read with rueful amusement the exercise -- helpfully transcribed in a t'ick Oirish oxcent -- about Paddy O'Connell coming 'round t'e corner to find Jimmy O'Shaugnessy and Sean O'Leary engaged in a fistfight. I then read the chapters on the Chinese accent, the "Southern Negro" accent, and the "Eastern European Jewish" accent with mounting dismay. It disappeared some time in the eighties -- whether weeded out or merely mutilated by someone even more horrorstruck than I is unknown.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:40 AM on October 13, 2011


No one's answered whether they are willing to pay higher taxes so that libraries can have adequate storage space and take the time to dispose of beaten up romance novels in a manner more to their liking. Also, please go to Amazon and note the prices for "ex-library" books. Even rare first editions drop dramatically in value after they've had library markings or bindings put on them. Seriously, this is barking up the wrong tree, there's plenty of things to worry about in the library world, this is a very minor one. That said, destroying the last copy of something is a different story.
posted by waitingtoderail at 9:01 AM on October 13, 2011


Srly dgtztn wll slv ths prblm...
posted by Rhaomi at 4:04 PM on October 13, 2011


I wonder how many passionate defenders of the printed book listen to music in compressed formats via digital media.

Because really, books are LPs, folks. A few people think they sound better, but most of us are in love with having 20K songs on our iPods.
posted by spitbull at 4:40 PM on October 13, 2011




I wonder how many passionate defenders of the printed book listen to music in compressed formats via digital media.

Because really, books are LPs, folks. A few people think they sound better, but most of us are in love with having 20K songs on our iPods.


Most people I know have record collections.

Someone upthread suggested selling physical books with a download code for eBooks. They do that with records.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:46 PM on October 13, 2011


listen to music in compressed formats via digital media.

Heavens! Compressed? If it isn't lossless it just isn't worth the effort.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:36 PM on October 13, 2011


spitbull wrote: But bemoaning the death of the paper book will not bring it back. It's a legacy technology. Someone will always want them, someone will always make a few of them, they will become luxury objects. But what I care about is the knowledge inside those books, and how we preserve that for future generations. I don't advocate burning books, but I do advocate getting over the nostalgia so prominently on display here. It's over, just like horses and buggies

Call me when eBook readers will last through a two week power outage, as happens here not terribly uncommonly. (Hint: Your may think Kindle will last two weeks, but it doesn't unless you're only reading a few pages a day)
posted by wierdo at 12:22 PM on October 14, 2011


And not one Farenheit 451 reference.
posted by Splunge at 6:21 PM on October 11

Except in the title?
posted by Ms. Informed at 7:23 PM on November 3, 2011


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