Why is it that whenever there is a an article that in any way references books in a librarians in a 1000 mile radius will pick it up and email it to one another? Now don’t get me wrong, I love books. And by that I mean I love those big heavy things that pile up in my backpack, on my desk, at my bedside and so on. I just feel bothered with the doom and gloom chicken little email forwarders (always emails that predict the ‘death of the book’ or the ‘end of reading’. Yes, there is a media explosion. Yes, books compete heavily with these alternate sources of media. Yes, reading of books seems to have taken a hit, but that makes me happy that I don’t work in publishing. It makes me sad in a hobbyist kind of way, but it has only bothers me marginally in a professional way.

An article in the New Yorker (which I read in the hard copy form in case anyone was wondering) really caught the point. James Surowiecki in reference to a work on the decline of the railroad industry notes that it was “a focus on products rather than on customers [that] led the companies to misunderstand their core business. Had the bosses realized that they were in the transportation business, rather than the railroad business, they could have moved into trucking and air transport, rather than letter other companies dominate.” The point was meant to parallel newspapers, but darn if that is not eerily similar to libraries. The book emails are, ultimately, concerned with products, books. We don’t send nearly as many email forwards looking at what people want from information, or new ways information is being shared. We care only about our books.

Something I’ve had to come to terms with (and let me tell you, it was hard. I’m a nostalgic grump at times) is that most people don’t care about books. Yes, it’s true. But they do care about knitting, fixing their car, getting a job, filing their taxes, enjoying culture and really are not too concerned with the medium in which they engage these activities. So please, forward me emails about how people use information. Forward me emails about how scholars are communicating their ideas. Forward me emails about web trends even if they may fizzle out in few weeks, but don’t drag me to another book wake. My morning period is over.