Ebooks are everywhere today - millions of them, actually - and so many of them are free. Think of all of the government documents, research reports, free PubMed and other sources for articles. Then think of all of the online reference books and materials you can get in libraries. And let's not forget the wonderful efforts of Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. And, then, of course, there is Google - can't forget their role in all of this. Through Google Books, we have the ability to search through the fulltext of hundreds of thousands (or more) books and find just the information that you need. No more having to rely on indexes or leafing through the pages of books hoping to find some little bit of information that seems elusive. Not any more!
As Harvard's Dean of Libraries, Robert Darnton notes: "Through technological wizardry and sheer audacity, Google has shown how we can transform the intellectual riches of our libraries, books lying inert and underused on shelves."
He also suggests that we need to find a way to make these truly and forever a public good: "But only a digital public library will provide readers with what they require to face the challenges of the 21st century - a vast collection of resources that can be tapped, free of charge, by anyone, anywhere, at any time."
Whether you are a Kindle fan, a Nook user or even if you prefer your existing PDA or PC, ebooks are a major step forward. Making these available to all the people for all time is the obligation that libraries have taken on. Check out what your library is doing to support and provide these key resources - you might be surprised.
For example, here at the University of Minnesota, a team led by Jim Stemper came up with a wonderful way to link vital information on our ebook collections for our users. The complexity is a bit mind-boggling - but that's another story.
For a look at where libraries are with ebooks today, check out a recent article I wrote for the July/August 2011 issue of SEARCHER magazine titled "Ebooks Everywhere."
Are you aware of all of the digital reading that you do each day? The printed page won't be going away anytime soon, but for information and quick access to facts and information, the ebook can't be beat!