Thursday, October 20, 2011

Books in my blood

"You will never find a librarian who will argue for higher prices. It's just not in their DNA." ~My boss, regarding prices on books marketed to libraries.

I heard this during our meeting today, and for some reason it's sticking with me. Maybe this is why I want to go to library school (I've taken to calling it that, as other people my age start working toward med school), why I covet special editions of classic books, but am easily satisfied being the third or fourth owner of a paperback (the special editions are so pretty, and if you see the state of some of my most-loved books, it's clear that I can't have nice things): it's just not in my DNA.

I read because I enjoy it. Because it opens my mind to new possibilities. Because each time I open a book, I learn something new. I love books and what they have done for me, and I truly believe that they should be accessible to everyone. Thus, despite my love for the physical book, the act of turning a page and the feeling of the tome in my hand, I don't scorn the rise of e-books and online media. As much as I want every kid to be able to hold a copy of the greatest works from Shakespeare to Dr. Seuss, that isn't feasible. But the ever-developing world of digital media brings these books just a bit closer to kids ever day. And that's a big deal.

So as someone who thinks books need to be available to everyone, how do I reconcile my beliefs with the need to turn a profit in the world of academic/professional/general interest (but not trade) publishing?

To be honest, I don't have a good answer to that question. The fact that the two biggest industries related to my passion for books seem to be in conflict is something that deeply troubles me. Maybe I haven't been working in publishing long enough. Maybe once I've been working in the industry longer, this question will cease to hold a place of importance in my mind. Now that's a scary thought.

I recognize that books can't generally be free. There are costs associated with producing them, so publishers must charge for them. That being said, I still can't totally get behind making a book expensive enough that only institutions are able to afford them. I believe information and resources should be available to anyone who seeks them. So maybe my love of books and my decision to pursue a degree in library science makes me more than a product of my environment. Maybe it's in my DNA?

No comments:

Post a Comment