Hello, everyone! I hope you all are doing well. The new fiscal year has just kicked off here at the library, and we are excited for the new opportunities it will bring. I want to thank the City of Fulton Board of Aldermen and the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors for their continued support of the library. Without these two boards, we would not be able to make the impact that we do in our community.
For today’s column, I want to spend some time discussing electronic books. I will start by telling you that we offer electronic books and downloadable audiobooks to our users through a great service called “Axis360.” It is available for free download from the app store on most mobile devices. On your computer, it can be accessed from a link on our website (www.li.lib.ms.us). Our offerings currently include over 3,200 electronic books and 800 downloadable audiobooks. In recent years, we have circulated approximately 7,000 electronic books and 5,500 electronic audiobooks per year. These numbers include Lee County Library patrons, as the app does not differentiate between the two libraries.
Electronic books have certainly allowed us to provide traditional library services in new and exciting ways. However, contrary to the popular notion, I don’t see them completely replacing print books any time soon. For me, it boils down to accessibility. In all other forms of media and technology, innovation has been the name of the game. DVDs replaced VHS tapes, only to be replaced by Blurays, and 4k Ultra HD Blurays seem to be the new standard. Likewise, the Sony Playstation has been superseded four times over since its release in 1994. Why have media standards changed so often? Were we all searching for a reason to throw away the VHS collections we spent so much time and money amassing? While the new bells and whistles that come along with each innovation might be reason enough for some to make the quick switch, I have a suspicion that wasn’t the case for the majority. Instead, new titles began being released exclusively on the new platform and, before we knew it, the devices we once loved were no longer being produced. At that point, we had no option but to shell out the money and join the newest technological revolution if we wanted to enjoy new media releases.
It seems that many people see print books as being destined to fall to technological innovation like these other media forms, but I beg to differ. I see two significant differences between traditional books and these other forms of media. First, most media forms require at least one device to view each singular title, work, game, etc. (a CD player is required to listen to a CD, a television and Nintendo 64 are required to play a Nintendo 64 cartridge). This is not the case for books. If we have eyes and vision sufficient to see the text, we can enjoy the entire experience that a book has to offer. Secondly, most innovations in media technology offer something new or better with each new gadget. Maybe that something is higher resolution, better graphics, or better sound quality, but there is always something new offered. This doesn’t happen with electronic readers and electronic books. Your Kindle Fire will not give you a back massage while enjoying Karen Kingsbury’s latest release (although it would be great if it would).
We get the same experience with the book and the electronic book; it just comes down to preference. According to a survey done by Statista Advertising and Media Outlook, the print book was preferred to the electronic book in each of the ten countries surveyed in 2020. For instance, in the United States, 44.5% of people surveyed claimed to have purchased a print book in the past year, while only 22.7% claimed to have bought an electronic book that year. Thus, electronic books are a great addition to our offerings here at the library but are not likely to completely replace print books anytime soon. I would love to hear your opinion on the matter. Do you prefer print or electronic books? Why? Visit us here at the library to get a library card and enjoy both our print and electronic book collections.