Friday, September 04, 2009

Books: an "obsolete technology"

The Globe today reports that Cushing Academy, an exclusive prep school in Ashburnham, Massachusetts, is completely remaking its library by removing all 20,000 books from the stacks. In their place, students will find Kindle electronic book readers and computers that will give students access to millions of books online. (There will also be spaced carved out for a new coffee shop within the library building). The chief architect of this radical transformation is the school’s headmaster, James Tracy, who said “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.” Needless to say, the move is controversial.

I’ve long been an enthusiastic advocate of the electronic delivery of information. Here at the registry, we have converted all of our land records – nearly 10 million pages – to electronic form, making them freely available to anyone with an internet connection. Still, there’s something about a library that cries out for a few books, at least. But I suppose we should get used to this concept. Electronic delivery is really the most efficient means of sharing information.

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