Will Libraries Turn Into Digital Reading Rooms?

close up of library books stacks

Migrated Image / CCAC North Library / Flickr

We're fans of e-readers. They're a way to dramatically decrease how many trees are used in the production of reading materials, especially textbooks, magazines, and newspapers. But they have their place. While we love e-readers, we love libraries even more.

Paper books that are shared over and over again are far greener than an electronic gadget. But, as e-books take over and the e-reader market booms, will libraries start to follow suit? Sony hopes so, with a new program to promote digital reading in libraries.

According to Sony, the Reader Library Program supports libraries that are expanding their ebook collection. Many libraries offer members the ability to "check out" books online, downloading them onto their computers or reading devices for two or three weeks. Sony wants to capitalize on this and train public libraries on digital reading devices as well as educate readers about what digital reading services are available to them.

Of course, Sony would also expect libraries to use the Sony Reader (which they produced until 2014) for the books. The company notes that since their readers are compatible with industry-standard formats, library patrons can download digital collections to their devices.

"Libraries play an important role in our civic and cultural life. Sony believes that it's important to support public library systems as they expand their services and digital offerings, particularly eBooks," said Steve Haber, president of Sony Electronics' Digital Reading Business Division. "Our program is a new initiative that will provide librarians with additional resources, enabling them to inform and demonstrate to patrons how to benefit from their growing eBook collections."

The push for libraries to do more with digital books is to be expected. e-Reader manufacturers want to edge in on any market where their devices could be useful and that definitely includes libraries. However, part of the joy of a library is to be around real books, shared over and over again among readers. Enjoying a book on an e-reader is certainly more energy-efficient than reading it on a computer screen, but it of course doesn't replace the pleasure of reading a physical book pulled from the stacks.

Still, a program such as what Sony is developing would certainly be useful in university and college libraries, where digital textbooks will one day take over, or where space for physical reference books is limited. It will be interesting to see how libraries start to integrate e-books and e-readers into the services they offer, and how Sony's new program is adopted by the libraries they're targeting.