A look at public library shelves today shows us the changes in reading habits in the world and, specifically in Indiana. Recently I visited the College Avenue branch of the Indianapolis Marion County Public Library and acclimated myself, since it was the first visit. This branch in the busy heart of the near North Side of Indianapolis, was my reading home as a child. Here I would pedal my bike (a mile from my home) to what was then called the Broadway Branch Library to enjoy discovering book finds such as Dr. Doolittle and Mary Poppins. It was a two-story farm house in the midst of rather stately homes in a lovely residential area.
The beautiful new facility at the former site sprawls over two lots in the midst of what is now a mixed-use neighborhood, busy with all kinds of different people and enterprises. But inside. are the following: eight (8) shelves six tiers high of bookshelves of general recent books: mysteries, sci-fi, romance, biography and the usual subjects we readers want to select from. There is one shelf of “Just Arrived.” That’s all, folks. That is all the books in the library that are obvious in the main reading room. What takes up the rest of the space, ¾ of it, are many children’s books and activities, a great many computers with people going “onto the net,” and shelf after shelf of DVDs, audio books and other electronic media. People on the computers, some of them, are accessing the library’s e-book collection, which is growing each day.
Half of the books Amazon now sells are e-books. They surpassed hardcover sales quite a while ago and now are equal to paperback sales. Does this mean that the print book is obsolete? Not at all. The most recent trends show that people are returning to some extent to print books to hold in their hands. So there is a joint marketplace for books and will be for quite a while. But a visit to Barnes and Noble shows the same allocation of space: in this case ¼ to print books and the rest to the coffee shop, games and puzzles, children’s books and activities and music and DVDS—and the stand for signing up for Nook e-books.
Those of us in the book publishing world are facing these realities and redesigning our lines to reach the many, many people who are reading on Kindle, Nook, and as downloads from the net. Hawthorne Publishing’s e-book line now includes eighteen history classics from our present and past lines. We are also reaching out to take on outstanding Hoosier history books from other lines which may be in danger of being lost to the future.
Flip back to the site to see the two newest additions to the e-book line: Born to Build: The Story of the Gene B. Glick Company and Once Upon a Lifetime: Marilyn’s Story by Marilyn Glick. These stories by Indianapolis’ two greatest philanthropists are companion pieces and each is impossible to put down.