E-books will make libraries obsolete

Is digitization making libraries superfluous?


Digitization makes libraries superfluous in their current form.

The thesis is not new, but the fact that it is being represented by the new head of the ETH Library Zurich is unusual. The reactions are accordingly.

The new head of the ETH library, Raffael Ball, was asked about the future of libraries on a full page in the NZZ on February 7, 2016. The title alone is a provocation: "Get rid of the books!" is it called there.

“Today you don't need libraries to find and read content, because you no longer need printed books. A large part of the literature can already be found digitized on the Internet. The library's monopoly on information has been overturned. Anyone who is connected to the Internet today but does not have access to a library is potentially more educated than someone who has access to the library but does not have Internet access. I know of a head of a German research center who says that he has never entered a library in his career. "

In the second part, the conversation becomes a little more differentiated: Libraries have to reinvent themselves, says Ball, as information and communication centers. “Aarhus in Denmark, for example, no longer has any printed books in the public library. There are conference rooms, events for children, a citizens' forum and a department of the city administration. And books can be accessed electronically there. "

Ball's theses are not new, but they did trigger a small storm in the water glass. Ruedi Mumenthaler, library scientist and until a few years ago head of research and development at the ETH Library, takes a critical look at Raffael Ball's theses in his blog. In his basic statements, however, he agrees: the libraries have to reinvent themselves and Aarhus in Denmark is a good example. But Mumenthaler is also of the opinion that the provocative article sends the wrong signals to politics at a time when people are looking for savings opportunities everywhere.

The historian Michael Hanger, who teaches science studies at the ETH, is also critical of the NZZ on February 12, 2016:

“The printed book is doing amazingly well, and it will stay that way for a long time. Why? Because there are countless readers who would rather take a printed book home and read it than purchase a license for an e-book, which can be withdrawn from them at any time; and besides, they don't like being data providers for the big companies of information capitalism while reading. "

He picks up two thoughts: “The printed book still lasts longer than the digital information. Nobody knows what of it will still be legible in a hundred years. " The second argument weighs heavily as well: digital information, especially in the field of science, is now in the hands of a few publishers such as Elsevier, Wiley and Springer, which control a large part of the scientific publications. The US search service Google controls access to the information. These are not necessarily reassuring perspectives.


Published by Dominik Landwehr on 02/12/2016 8:55 AM in read

Keywords: [children] [politics]