Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tom Peters on the future

Tom Peters's long piece on the Future of Reading provides a tidy summary of the issues, and suggests that "As the book changes form, the library must champion its own power base—readers [as distinct from its brand, which as been books]. But Peters so dilutes the meaning of reading that I wonder if it makes any sense to speak of it as a unique activity: The boundaries and varieties of reading experiences continue to expand and evolve. For example, perhaps the way gamers interact with highly structured, complex games qualifies as a new form of reading. It is more meaningful and accurate to state that these power players are reading the game rather than merely playing it.

The article concludes with a rousing call for a Reader Bill of Rights: Because readers are the power base of libraries (as well as of bookstores and other organizations), we also can serve them well by articulating and advocating for their needs, desires, and interests. Authors, publishers, aggregators, and distributors are not the enemies of readers and libraries, but nature abhors a vacuum. If readers don't assert their rights in the dawning e-reading era, someone else will snatch up those rights. To that end, I suggest that libraries and library associations develop, promulgate, and defend a Reader Bill of Rights for the Digital Era.  A "Reader Bill of Rights" doesn't strike me as a matter of great urgency, or something that libraries need to focus on; it seems more like a contrived ending to Peter's otherwise perceptive and interesting article, but more appropriate for an LJ cover story. A more logical conclusion points in the direction of obsolescence for libraries, but no  reason to stop providing services as long as people find them useful.

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