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The Future Is Now!

First Bookless Public Library Features E-readers You Can Borrow


Not quite sure e-readers are for you? They are a significant expense after all, and not everyone is ready to leave those delicious smelling pages behind. But you’re in luck if you live near Bexar County in Texas. They’re about to open the nation’s first bookless public library system. 

The San Antonio Express-News reports on Judge Nelson Wolff’s plan for the library. “After months of planning, Wolff and other county leaders will announce plans to launch the nation’s first bookless public library system, BiblioTech, with a prototype location on the South Side opening in the fall,” they write.

Although Wolff has a personal collection of over 1,000 first editions, he said he was inspired by Apple founder Steve Jobs’ biography to spearhead a bookless library. “If you want to get an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store,” Wolff told them of his bookless library.

Other libraries offer downloadable books, and the University of Texas at San Antonio has bookless collections, but Wolff believes they will be the first designed to be completely digital.

“It’s not a replacement for the (city) library system, it’s an enhancement,” said Wolff. “People are always going to want books, but we won’t be doing that in ours.”

The plan will cost $250,000 just for the 10,000 titles they’re planning to start with. They’ll need further funding for the design of the library, staff, possible copyright issues that may present themselves down the road, and yes, possible device theft.

At the first library, residents will be able to check out one of 100 e-readers available for home use.

Wolff said there may be some losses of the $100 devices, but “we do have your name, we do have your address. You check it out for two weeks, just like a library book. In two weeks, your e-book goes dead, so you won’t have anything worth keeping.”

Not sure if he’s referring to a specific technology designed for them or just battery life, either way, I’m sure they’ll still wind up losing a few.

Is this something you’d like to see in your town?

(via Jezebel)

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  • Anonymous

    So, 250K for content plus the cost of readers (and additional funds for their replacement as they are broken, stolen, etc.) – and they can only serve 100 people simultaneously? My mid-size public library checks out over 2,000 items per day to people. And lest you think I’m a Luddite, I’m in charge of digital services. This seems like an idea whose time hasn’t quite come. Unless what they’re really doing is training lots of expert staff to help people use the readers and devices they already own to download library content of all kinds, not just eBooks.

  • Anonymous

    With most library’s e-reader service, you only have the book subscription for 2 weeks, once it expires you’re no longer able to access it. I assume that’s what he means when he says your e-book goes dead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/trillian42astra Lisa Orozco

    Sometimes, I hate this city; Wolff is a moron.

  • http://www.facebook.com/trillian42astra Lisa Orozco

    Also, if you lived near here, you wouldn’t want to go near the Southside, trust me.

  • Georgina

    Urgh urgh urgh no. As a librarian myself, I cannot describe how much I hate this. And it is like an Apple store? What, souless and depressing?

  • apurple2345

    My library bought 90 Nooks, 1/3 color and 2/3 b&w, for circulation (library serves 175k people). I
    have checked both of them out just to see what they were like and
    wasn’t won over. They come with a lot of titles already on them, but I
    guess you could add whatever you wanted to it. I didn’t, as I was just
    interested in the device itself. They were a popular item at first, but
    15 are supposedly currently available, and a lot seem to be in “missing”
    or “in repair” status.

  • http://www.facebook.com/laura.truxillo Laura Truxillo

    Eff my life.

    How much longer before our patrons start demanding this, I wonder.

    Look, I get it, libraries are keeping up with the times or whatever. That’s why I watch people check out ten or twenty DVDs and three Wii games every week but never even glance at the books. It’s depressing.

    But honestly, given how utterly destroyed our books and movies get and how well people treat Free Stuff That Isn’t Theirs–not to mention exactly how many people we have who just checked out a few hundred bucks worth of movies and kept them– what bugs me more is knowing half of them would get lost, broken, or stolen within a few months. Rubbish idea.

  • Anonymous
  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • John Moore

    But just imagine how this could be if copyright were no problem. Even today there are some ebook lovers (in obscure East European countries) with personal libraries numbering 20,000 or more volumes. Why can’t this kind of thing be public? Maybe in some utopian future it will be.

  • Anonymous

    Was just about to reply with the same thing. Though in our library system, you can select the ebook to expire in 1, 2 or 3 weeks, 3 being the standard loan period for all books.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=559945163 Melodia E. McIntyre

    I’m not a fan of this. Perhaps as part of a regular library? But what would this be? Just a tiny room? Part of the library experience is the library itself.

  • http://twitter.com/nellydreadful Nelly Dreadful

    Mmph, I have nothing particular against this in principle; I love paper books, but after spending a year travelling abroad, when the only English language books I could acquire and transport easily were e-books, I’ve gotten over my skittishness about the e-book format. And I already borrow overdrive e-books from the library on MY electronic devices. It’s kind of nice to sign out library books that are smart enough to turn themselves back in.

    The logistics of loaning the devices themselves are just throwing me, though. An item for loan has to be able to stand up to a certain level of abuse; hundreds of people sign things out, a certain percentage of the people who sign out an item are going to be careless or clumsy. I doubt most digital devices are up to the challenge. And when you’re dealing with an electronic item, there’s going to be thefts. Not just by patrons; people steal stuff out of cars and on the bus.

    If you want to come up with a way to provide e-books to people who don’t have their own e-book reader, possibly it might be a better idea to try to develop a reader that can be built and sold very cheaply, and run on free open-source software? This program is only useful to people who don’t already own a device capable of running e-reader software. If you make it possible for folks to buy (build?) their own, they could use e-book lending services that already exist.

  • Anonymous

    My local library has already had this service for over a year. If you own an e-reader, you can borrow items electronically, then they are deleted from your device. I’ve not used any e-borrowing services, but I understand they are very popular. You can also borrow e-readers if you don’t have one. This is a good way to see if you like them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.middleton.756 Wendy Middleton

    As a librarian i want to encourage the world to read. E or regular books, just read something. There is a dividing line between a librarian with a MLS (masters in library science) and a librarian with the newer MLIS (masters in library and information science). Yes, it was difficult to accept the electronic invasion, but ebooks and elibraries increase book access and that is the main mission of all libraries since the beginning of time. Wendy Middleton MLIS.

  • http://www.mygeekygeekyways.com Starman

    There’s a reason why nobody has done this sort of thing before and it has nothing to do with libraries refusing to get with the times.

    The biggest issue is that book publishers – who don’t like libraries much in the first place since they think we discourage people from buying books (never mind that the reverse is true – people read a book for free and then rush out to buy the rest of a series/the author’s work) – either refuse to take part in e-lending programs in the first place or charge the library more than the cost of a print book for e-books of the most popular authors!