In my email today, I had an ad from Borders announcing the last days of being in business. In some ways, I’m saddened. Although I work here in the Book Center, I spend hours in the evenings and on weekends in bookstores. The Borders on Preston at Forest was my go-to for finding books on topics that went beyond the Biblical/theological niche that we fill.
I love it when I find a book that is just what I needed sitting near the one I thought I wanted. That’s an experience that’s really hard to get online. No matter how many books I tell Amazon I already own or am not interested in, they’ve never quite figured me out. I buy a commentary on Acts and they assume that I want everything in that series or that I need ten commentaries on Obadiah.
Lately, I’ve been asked what I think the future holds for books. E-books and print, online and bricks-and-mortar stores, Kindles and iPads–where are we going to be? Honestly, I don’t know. If it was my call, I would like a combination. The lightning-fast searches I can do on Accordance leaves some of my print copies gathering dust. But I hate using commentaries on a computer. I have five open at a time and am flipping back and forth to remember what was on the last page
or in the introduction. I can always flip a page to what I’m looking for faster than scrolling.
If there were websites where I could find what I need and could screen out what I don’t, I’d probably mostly use an iPad. Last weekend I was searching for images to use for teaching Paul’s journeys and pulled up thousands of shots of celebrities vacationing in the Greek islands (not what I wanted). Before I can consume the content, someone has to create it. A Biblical encyclopedia that functioned like a website with hundreds of layers of quality content written by evangelical scholars may be a long time coming.
I hope the future provides books that will allow us to explore easier and find hidden treasures. But I hope that it doesn’t focus on predigested, junk-food offerings that appeal to the majority, but take away our ability to think. Thoughtful books written by quality authors, published with talented editors will never go away. We just have to figure out the format.
Director, DTS Book Center