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Naturally Cool

November 7, 2011

Our house is naturally cool in the summer, and so it’s naturally cold in the winter. I look forward to winter for two reasons: (i) bread dough rises more slowly, which works for me, and (ii) butter stays firm on the kitchen counter.

There may be other reasons. I like snowshoeing. We won’t talk about Christmas. As Roseanne Roseannadanna said, “It’s always something—if it ain’t one thing, it’s another.”

This is true of e-books, which have raised various issues beyond the big ones of format and copyright. There are practical matters.

How shall scholars cite their references? What does a page number mean in an e-book that can be reformatted to one’s personal preferences in font and size? What’s on page 35 for a young student might be on page 70 for a bleary-eyed and graying professor.

Then there’s the footnote. Will e-books be clever enough to drag footnotes along with the text to which they refer? It’s a formatting quandary right now. Usually, footnotes in e-books are relegated to endnotes, regardless of the original text, if they remain at all.

As Alexandra Horowitz noted in a N.Y. Times article: “The e-book hasn’t killed the book; instead, it’s killing the page.”

All that a book was is changing: covers, binding, papers, font, page layout. Book “design” will be given over to “formatting.” You can scroll text continuously in an e-book, completely cancelling the idea of a page.

Ah, well. The success of iTunes and the sale of digital music one song at a time effectively ended the age of “albums,” which were often thematic in concept and carefully arranged. Music CDs changed the art of album covers and liner notes.

Many readers won’t miss footnotes, just as many won’t miss paper. Both will remain, but there are more options now. The “world of ten thousand things” keeps growing.

So here’s an answer to a common question these days: The library will be able to lend e-books before Christmas.

This includes e-books for Kindles. We really didn’t feel much pressure to provide e-books until after last Christmas, when everyone got a Kindle. However, there was no way to lend books to a Kindle, such was Amazon’s intentional design of it.

However, as of last month, Amazon began offering Kindle-formatted titles through a service called Overdrive, which is the service we’ll be using. Sigh. It’s so much more complicated even to talk about vs. putting a book on the shelf.

Regardless, there are great advantages to e-readers, and soon you’ll be able to borrow books for yours from our library.

We’ll be talking about this more in the coming weeks because it is part of a bigger move. Our library is joining the Marmot Library Network, a consortium of mostly West-Slope libraries that has been around for decades.

I’ve considered joining in the past. A recent development that was the last straw, so to speak, was the Marmot connection to the Prospector system, an even larger consortium of libraries along the Front Range.

So, a sample benefit, in addition to getting a collection of e-books, is this. Once our catalog is added to Marmot, you will be able to search our library plus the 1.4 million titles in Marmot, click the Request button for an item you want, and voila!, it will show up in the courier delivery.

If that’s not enough, you can then search the 30 million items in Prospector and do the same thing. It’s a marvelous kind of access.

Consider it a Christmas present. Stay tuned.

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