20 May 2010

Aborted Musings on Book Browsing

I have had a half-completed post sitting in my text editor for over two weeks now. It was partially on browsing for books (and how that doesn't really happen in academic libraries) and partially on how I judge books by their covers all the time. I really did intend to share deep thinky-thoughts with you all, but I just can't seem to get them written in a coherent form. Instead, I'm stuck saying things like "thinky-thoughts".

Anyway, so what I'm going to do is share all the links that got me ruminating on the topic, and maybe it'll get you pondering too.

  • The Guardian recently ran an article explaining why books often get different covers depending on where they are printed.

  • And there's a related post on books with similar covers but different prices over at Inklings.

  • The North Carolina State University Library has released some open source software which allows users to virtually browse shelves.

  • And the American Libraries website posted an article tackling The Myth of Browsing, which maintains, among other things, "Because the books in highest demand are most likely to be in use and, thus, off the shelf, browsing academic library shelves is the equivalent of hitting the sale tables on day three of a three-day sale."
Unlike most public libraries, we don't keep the dust jackets on our books. So rather than browsing our physical shelves for monographs, I browse the catalog -- pictures and descriptions, oh my! And when I go to bookstores, I rarely browse anymore -- I go in knowing exactly what I want, that it's in stock, and once I've located it (not always the easiest task in most chain bookstores -- I'm looking at you, Barnes and Noble), I leave again; on the rare occasion I do go to browse, I tend to just look at the books on display or which are faced out.

I used to spend hours browsing the bookstore, library or bookmobile shelves. Is it just me? Or have you noticed a change in your browsing behavior too? Are we doing our students a disservice by tossing book covers?