Library future

To the editor:

Recently, Amazon, the largest distributor of books, revealed that their electronic e-book sales were already exceeding their hardcover sales. In a Sept. 28, 2010, Wall Street Journal major article, book industry expert/consultant Michael Shatzkin estimated that e-book sales would amount for up to 25 percent of total unit sales by the end of 2012, a startling prediction. E-books sell for about half the price of hardcovers.

What will be the impact on the design requirements for Lawrence’s library expansion? In the 30 years ahead for the library, e-books might quickly dominate. The need for bookshelves would shrink, not expand. E-book supply might then most economically stem from offsite electronic data storage facilities with only terminals required in the library.

Already, bookstore chains are closing down an increasing number of stores with slipping profits, partly due to the vast choices on the Web which have eaten into the time people allot to reading books. The proposed expansion was designed prior to this explosive demand for e-books.

City leaders and library management need to consult with e-book experts such as Mr. Shatzkin to determine the necessity for possible design revisions before construction begins — assuming taxpayers approve the library expansion of $18 million on Nov. 2.

Don Smalter,