Books: What’s Next In An Era of Technology?

Grace Doerfler ‘18, News Editor

Amazon books, iBooks, and Kindles have become increasingly prevalent in today’s society. However, with technology capable of bringing electronic books to our fingertips in instants, what will become of physical books? Two hardback hotspots in Oakland, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (CLP) and Caliban Book Shop, provided insights on the future of the printed word.

     If you haven’t visited the CLP’s main branch yet, now is the time. Escape from harsh winter winds into the warm shelter of the library, amble into the young adult section, and you’ll immediately be greeted by a friendly librarian eager to promote her favorite books. In the teen wing, a helpful woman explained what the CLP does and how its prospects look in the face of the technological revolution.

     The library has fared better in many respects than ill-fated bookstores like Borders. Through community outreach programs in local schools and neighborhood organizations, the CLP has been able to ensure a continued customer base. By providing support for those learning English as a second language and introducing foreign language conversation groups, among other programs, the library encourages visitors to take advantage of more than just the card catalog. Technology does not seem to be counteracting the library’s literacy initiatives. In fact, the Carnegie has seized new technological capabilities and used them to promote reading more than ever. Both paper and electronic collections have become an important part of the library’s offerings. The e-book database serves to enhance users’ lives through access, both educationally and imaginatively. Readers can get valuable experiences from both digital and paper mediums; accessibility and personal preference are the main differences between the collections’ usage, one librarian said. For the Carnegie, technology isn’t a force to fight, but rather one to embrace. The library, continuing its role as an “equalizer” where anybody, regardless of socioeconomic background, can access materials for free, has adopted technology into its system as another way to provide books to anybody who wants curl up with a story.

     Just a couple of blocks down the street from Oakland Catholic sits 22-year establishment Caliban Book Shop, a vendor of mostly rare and used books. Walking into Caliban is like stepping into the pages of The Book Thief and coming face-to-face, like Liesel, with a fabulous wealth of books. The scent of books wafts around newcomers as they face floor-to-ceiling shelves crowded with endless volumes. Teetering stacks of books cover the little floor space in front of the register. The shop, for any bibliophile, feels like hallowed ground. Despite the e-book market, Caliban has no sense that electronic books or online sellers like Amazon threaten its collection. The booksellers feel that their loyal customer base will continue to frequent their store, either to find a planned purchase or simply to browse and enjoy new discoveries. One woman who works at Caliban explained that, while Amazon continues to make new strides in the book market, in response, “many people hearken back to the paper medium because they love the feel of a physical book.”

     The future of paper books may seem grim to book buyers, but for those who market the written word to the public, traditional tomes will not be going away anytime soon. The Craig Street consensus: electronic and physical mediums can collaborate, so bibliophiles everywhere will not lack for books.