Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kindles and libraries and sharing, oh my!

Must... resist... Kindle... don't... need.... toy.....

I love technology for technology's sake. I really do. I will run to an overcomplicated solution to a simple problem every time. Well, everytime it doesn't cost me money. As it turns out, I am a cheap son-of-a-gun. So, I get slowed in my purchasing - if not my lust - for new gizmos and gadgets gleaming with gears and glowing with green gases.

As of yet, I don't own an iPhone. I don't have a Roku box for my TV (although I do have a Soundbridge for music in my kitchen). And I don't own a Kindle.

It's not that I don't look longingly at these pretty pieces of processing power. But to really make use of any of these devices, you have to spend money regularly. The Kindle is (almost) completely replacable - for free - at your local public library.

I should state for the record that I am a little fanatical about libraries, much as am I with technology. So take this fan-boy post for what it is. I started working in a library when I was in high school, and I got to see what people were checking out. I found more interesting books by re-shelving someone else's interesting books than by looking for cool stuff on my own. I love the idea of sharing a book. After all, how often do I really go back and re-read a book? In my case, pretty rarely. There are too many new ones stacked on my nightstand, thank you very much. So, what happened to all the books I paid for rather than borrowed from a library?

They became trophies.

I had conquered them and put their carcasses on a shelf for visitors to my home to inspect. Sometimes I'd lend them out. Mostly, they collected dust, like the trophy I got from the American Legion in 1984.

Seems like a waste, really.

When I got married and moved in 2004, my wife and I had to take a look at what books were coming along for the ride to our new home. How much stuff were we going to move with us, and what could go? Well, the paperbacks mostly went to books for prisons projects. The hardcovers that were worthwhile went to Books for Africa, some stuff went to the library as donations, and a select few we kept. Some we do go back to, and some have such deep meaning that keeping that particular momento seemed worth it.

None of the sharing things can happen to books purchased for the Kindle.

You can't give them to friends, you can't donate them to the library, you can't send them to prisons or to Africa. You can pay your $10 and have it forever, but the next person to enjoy that book is going to have to pay $10.

Unless they go get a copy from their library.

I go to the library with my kids at least once a week, more faithfully than we go to church (mostly because the kids never complain about going to the library). The kids still have books they own, but I like passing on the message that we should be sharing materials. Not just for the cost factor, although that counts (did I mention I'm cheap?). It's a good ethic. When my son needed the next book in a series the moment it came out (and library wait lists can be long - I'm still waiting for Slumdog Millionaire), we bought the book so he could enjoy it, and when he was done, he donated his copy to the library so the next kid won't have to wait so long to get a copy.

And he'll always know where his copy is if he needs it again. In the interim, it won't be a trophy on a shelf, it will be spreading the joy to the next person.

We don't have to limit ourselves to libraries to share media. I like that route, but there are sites like or I hope to hear about a new feature on the next generation Kindle that let's you check e-books out of libraries and share books with friends. Then I'll be a little closer to giving in to my techie side and joining the Kindle army. For today, I'm back to logging into my library account and seeing what's due back for the next patron to enjoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment