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Books Technology

First US Public Library With No Paper Books Opens In Texas 212

cold fjord writes "Bexar Country in Texas has opened a new $2.3 million library called BiblioTech. It doesn't have physical books, only computers and e-reader tablets. It is the first bookless public library system in the U.S. The library opened in an area without nearby bookstores, and is receiving considerable attention. It has drawn visitors from around the U.S. and overseas that are studying the concept for their own use. It appears that the library will have more than 100,000 visitors by year's end. Going without physical books has been cost effective from an architecture standpoint, since the building doesn't have to support the weight of books and bookshelves. A new, smaller library in a nearby town cost $1 million more than Bexar Country's new library. So far there doesn't appear to be a problem with returning checked out e-readers. A new state law in Texas defines the failure to return library books as theft."
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First US Public Library With No Paper Books Opens In Texas

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  • Why bother (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jabberw0k ( 62554 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @05:09PM (#45866949) Homepage Journal
    A library without books is... pointless. Why not just build a Starbucks or a McDonalds. Or, actually, an empty room. What a waste.
  • Makes Sense (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 04, 2014 @05:12PM (#45866959)

    Every time I've visited a library in the UK all the users are just browsing Facebook or playing games on the computers, or lending out DVDs of Hollywood movies. Cutting out the books entirely would seem like a sensible move because nobody seems to read them.

  • Why NOT bother? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 04, 2014 @05:47PM (#45867113)

    while paper books actually do have some advantages...most libraries do not carry multiple copies of that book. A major advantage here is that every one of their readers can have the exact same book on it at the exact same time so 12 people in 12 households can all enjoy it at the same time.

    Secondly, if you read the article, this is actually a poorer area of the city in which many households do not have internet access. So putting it all on the web would still NOT benefit them.

    Do I think there should be an online library? Of course, its ridiculous that we do not have one yet in fact. Its a holdover from money-grubbing publication houses who want to continue to create an artificial scarcity of their product to keep prices higher than they should be. But is this a bad idea? A waste of money or time? Not at all, its a step in the right direction, and a big one at that.

  • Re:Why bother (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ranton ( 36917 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @05:49PM (#45867119)

    A library without books is... pointless.

    A library which focuses primarily on books is ... almost pointless.

    Libraries are there to help improve the general level of education of the nearby population. Storing and lending books were by far the most important functions of libraries when books were the primary source of information in our culture. That is not even close to true anymore. I spend over $200 per month on books at Amazon each month, so I am a heavy reader, but I still consume most information online. And I was a holdout when it came to getting an e-reader, but over half of my book reading is now done on my iPad. In fact the reason I finally bought an iPad last year is because I found myself reading books from my phone far more often than reading paper books, and I wanted a better form factor.

    Like it or not, the Internet is a better source of most information now. So libraries need to adapt to that in order to perform their function as education centers. That means more real estate for computers and less for books. With less emphasis on books libraries can also focus on more personal relationships with the community. I go to about five lectures at my local library per year and find them very interesting. I think other services like tutoring and job skill training make a lot of sense in modern libraries as well. I know my local library has many classes each season such as basic accounting, how to appeal your real estate assessment, computer training, etc. These are all far more important than renting out books IMHO.

  • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Saturday January 04, 2014 @06:44PM (#45867339) Journal

    Okay, time to bring up a new topic.

    I completely disagree that the internet is a "better source". It's a stunning *complementary source*. But books (medium, to be discussed later) are the exclusive domain of a ton of "long form content" with certain types of structure that don't really exist per se in the internet.

    The big elephant in the room I still don't see really taken seriously is ... Print On Demand.

    Clearly if someone has the digital file en masse for these kinds of e-libraries, then it's "not hard" to POD it. Then people could get their cumulative favorite 100 "tree books", but the library doesn't have to stock the massive 30,000 item collection with Long Tail problems.

    POD is here. *Five years ago* the Hardvard book store had a prototype (cover art rights issues, sure) that produced books as solid as anything done by the pros "in about an hour".

    But I'm amazed that no one is constructively talking about POD in these "future of books" discussions, even at the risk on the store side of the big chains folding. (ProTip - why would I even order from amazon if I could get my copy in my hand at lunch?)

  • Re:Why NOT bother? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by davester666 ( 731373 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @06:48PM (#45867357) Journal

    don't forget about expiring books. publishers also have 'can only lend X times' terms as well. the library might pay less for the book initially, but over time it is likely they will pay more if the book is at all popular.

  • by ranton ( 36917 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @07:19PM (#45867501)

    The big elephant in the room I still don't see really taken seriously is ... Print On Demand.

    Once you have standardized page size and other challenges inherent with POD, you might as well just be downloading an e-book. Cost may be an issue for e-readers today, but you already can get some pretty damn cheap e-readers if you are willing to buy something other than the big name brands. So if you are talking about the future of books, not just trends over the next 5-10 years, it is most likely going to be incredibly cheap color e-ink tablets that most books are read from.

    No one knows the future for sure, so perhaps POD will have its place, but I find it doubtful.

    I completely disagree that the internet is a "better source". It's a stunning *complementary source*. But books (medium, to be discussed later) are the exclusive domain of a ton of "long form content" with certain types of structure that don't really exist per se in the internet.

    I didn't mean to say that the internet is a better source for all information. My rationalle for calling it a better source was simply that it is a better source for most of the information people need. I am easily in the top 5% of physical book purchasers for personal consumption in the developed world (probably top 1%), but even I realize that most of the time I need to learn something I do not turn to books (either physical or e-books). They are for highly specialized content and for reference information that has not yet been posted online (which is more and more rare as the years go on). And for novels, if you are into that kind of thing, but those transition to e-books even better than the non-fiction books I read.

  • by rueger ( 210566 ) on Saturday January 04, 2014 @08:18PM (#45867767) Homepage
    Like most libraries, our local [] has embraced all manner of e-technology. Although the vast majority of users still prefer 'real books," they also offer e-books, e-reader loans, music downloads, and audiobook downloads, as well as access to a large group of databases.

    As an end user I'd call most of this a disaster. Books are simple - you sign it out, take it home, and renew it until you're done reading it. If someone else needs the book they can place a hold, and you can't renew it any more. If you need a book not on the shelf you can place a hold.

    I had been using them for audiobooks to listen to in the car on my Android phone. This worked great except that pretty much the only company servicing Canadian libraries is Overdrive [], and their software is bar none the worst that I've encountered.

    Still, it was just usable enough that despite the really poor selection of audiobooks, the limited number of "copies available", the lack of any way to renew books, and the really, really, really horrid interface on either PC or phone, I could live with it.

    This year Overdrive updated their software, with a new added "feature": you could no longer limit downloads to WIFI. Or even pause a download in progress. As a consequence one ill-timed audiobook download consumed my entire month's cel phone data cap in less than a day.

    I deleted it, and let my library know that I was using Pirate Bay from here on - faster, easier, better selection, and no chance of getting hammered with data overage charges.

    Beyond that it's pretty well known that publishers define an e-book as only being downloadable for a few dozen times - alleging that this replicates the physical life of an actual book. It's an obvious lie, and ignores the longstanding practices of rebinding and repairing books - something that libraries have done for many decades.

    Our library has a pretty remarkable section of CDs on loan, and actually has surprised me many times with the stuff that they have on the shelves. The downloadable music offering Freegal [] lets you grab a grand total of THREE songs per month. DRM free, but kind of useless.

    At the end of the day I wish that our library would go back to lending physical artifacts - the restraints on them by the publishers makes any attempt to provide e-content pretty much impossible.

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