Our spring book sale is coming up Thursday, April 18 through Sunday, April 21. For many of us, it’s the highlight of the year. It’s not every day you get to pore through 20,000 fascinating or obscure or popular or heartwarming books that you get to take home for a little pocket change. But I’ve been wondering what these massive book sales will look like in the future? With more and more people purchasing digital content, will book sales even exist?
In 2005, I was at a national library conference where the keynote speaker was a well-known library expert. At that time, he said “eBooks are dead.” The prohibitive cost of reading devices was the reasoning behind his statement. At that time, readers were well over $500 compared to now, when prices begin around $50. Since then, of course, prices dropped and ereading exploded. Many avid readers who can afford it have purchased an ereader and gone almost completely digital.
One of the biggest concerns I’ve had as a librarian is NOT whether libraries will remain alive with the digital novel revolution (libraries are actually information brokers, not book brokers, so the media on which the information is placed is largely irrelevant to us), but how our book sale will fare.
Having successful book sales is a huge concern because we use proceeds to supplement a bare bones budget that would typically allow for just physical books and staff. Without supplements, we would not have been able to start our ebook service or have genealogy and testing databases or hold events that attract people to the library like summer reading.
The main concern is the people who often purchased full price books at a store are also those likely to have been able to purchase an ereader. That means the books they were buying and donating to the library book sale no longer exist in a form in which we are able to take as donations and then resell.
Lately, each time the sale approaches, I wait with bated breath to see whether or not the book storage room is filling up fast enough. If there is a time when the number of boxes entering the room stalls, I become very anxious. But so far, we are seeing just as many, if not more books being donated. This might be because as people go all digital, they are clearing out their physical collections. Whatever the reason, it is making book sale shopping all the richer.
I imagine the future holds sales where electronic books are donated, stored and purchased online, probably all year around. Perhaps smaller physical sales will still take place where the books sold are super rare and hard to find. I won’t miss all of the work that goes into the giant sales, but I will miss the distinctive smell of thousands upon thousands of delicious books. At any rate, we’ve still got the big ole sales for now, so come on over and shop, shop, shop!