Earlier today, an article on Salon was posted discussing Amazon shooting itself in the foot by putting brick and mortar bookstores–like Borders–out of business. The idea is that by shutting down the places people physically look at books, they lose business because no one is discovering anything new.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen articles like this (Amazon v. Bookstores), but it is the first time I realized there’s a group always absent from these discussions: libraries. Maybe it’s just my new job working in the circulation department at the Tippecanoe County Library (TCPL), but I’m actually surprised by how rarely libraries are mentioned in the literary and publishing community.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve had discussions in classes about big box bookstores, indie bookstores, used bookstores, online bookstores, Amazon, e-readers, etc. On the other hand, I can’t think of a single time I’ve had a class bring up libraries in any discussion.
Yesterday I participated in the new employee group orientation here at TCPL, and as part of that orientation, I got to see the room in tech services where new books get processed and added to our system. The room smelled like new paper and ink, and every shelf had a long row of shiny new spines. Next to the door were even more books, not yet taken out of the UPS boxes they were shipped in. I don’t know exactly how many new books we process a year, but once I find out Monday, I’ll update this post–needless to say, it’s a lot.
The main library branch here has more than 301,000 items that can be checked out, and in 2011 alone there were more 500,000 people that passed through the doors–and this is just a small county library in Indiana. So my question is…
Why isn’t publishing talking about libraries? Are we too focused on simply the individual sales of books?
If we’re talking about Amazon making a mistake by eliminating physical bookstores–and therefore eliminating the way people discover new books–why aren’t we talking about libraries, locations that encourage and promote thousands of people a year to not only discover, but read new books as well?