Zombies in a library? Apocalypse or just the best idea ever?

I have to say week 9 for LAPIS was one of my favourites. What’s not to love about a lecture that talks about comics, zombies and Snoopy? Dr Matt Finch has been one of my favourite guest lectures. Not only was he engaging as a speaker but his passion for literacy was actually infectious, I went home thinking I needed to do something to get more kids into libraries or generally into reading and proceeded to spend an hour on the phone talking to my 9 year old nephew about his recent discovery of Gulliver’s Travels and I rejoiced that my brother’s hatred of novels didn’t pass down to his offspring.

As a child literacy was one of the most appealing things, it was a new adventure in every new book. Even as an adult I feel the same way, I just lack the time to pick up a book at the moment between uni, work and getting ready to move house. I want to indulge in my favourite ‘The Secret Garden’ but at the same time finally get through Game of Thrones that have been sitting on my bookshelf since my last birthday. My point is is that I love that Dr Finch is imparting the same passion and doing something worthwhile, addressing parliaments to get literacy right in the public mind.

But what I fell in love with the most from this lecture was the zombie takeover of a library in Tullamore, Australia. It shows how a library is so much more than just the shelves as Dr Finch kept saying. A library can be the hub of a community, it can be used to engage with different types of groups, it for some groups can be the only place to feel any connection to another person. As William Sieghart said in his ‘Independent Library Report for England‘ that libraries are the golden thread of our lives and if public funding keeps getting cut then there will be a huge hole in our communities. So I say good on the libraries that open their doors for comic festivals and zombie takeovers, hopefully these innovative ideas can come across the oceans to us and we can make a conscious effort to keep communities alive with stories, information and education.

Books can do the splits, what can ebooks do?

When PenguinRandom House’s Daniel said he still sees a future of hardcopy books my heart rejoiced for two reasons:

  1. I’m a bit of a traditionalist, I love the experience of a hardcopy book. The ability to write your name in it, the smell of a new book (likewise the smell of an old book), the bending the spine, everything. There is something much more satisfying about a hardcopy than reading on your kindle.

  2. As someone undergoing a digitalisation project at work and for dissertation I know how some specialist libraries are dependent on physical collections (like one of my fellow students suggested about the Prison Service). If hardcopy publications were to stop we would currently have to stop adding to our collections which is impossible if we want to remain open.

I understand that electronic delivery needs to be the way going forward, it’s a way of the working world. Electronic delivery means efficiency and speed which is what readers really want. But hardcopy publications still need to exist so i’m more than pleased that sales don’t seem to be depleting.

However, that doesn’t mean i’m not interested in the future of publications and the electronic developments that are taking place. My company is also a publisher as well as a library and as a¬†publisher we’re interested in what we can do next. We attempted to go the epub route in 2013 but found that only half a dozen orders came through for that format so our management team saw that as a failure, that our industry wasn’t interested in ‘ebooks’. But like Ernesto pointed out in our lecture, an ebook is not dependent on the device it is being read on, it is the file that makes a book an ebook. In that case you could argue that we are a successful seller of ebooks as over 55% of our sales are pdfs. Our marketing team just don’t seem to acknowledge pdf as an ebook as it can be read on any device, not just an e-reader.

Which is frustrating because it means I have to try harder to find the next solution or the next method of providing information electronically. I liked Dan’s idea of web apps and after recently visiting the Publishing and Media Expo 2014 I can see that many companies are pushing for that being the next development. There are numerous companies like PugPig and PageSuite who are offering publishers the opportunity to try webapps, PenguinRandom House already look like they are doing it with their 80 classics collection. I’m not sure how we as a publisher can succeed but I do like the idea of moving away from being device focused like apps are.