“People flock in, nevertheless, in search of answers to those questions only librarians are considered to be able to answer, such as “Is this the laundry?” “How do you spell surreptitious?” and, on a regular basis, “Do you have a book I remember reading once? It had a red cover and it turned out they were twins.”
—Terry Prachett, Going Potal
Last week of the Fall 2012 semester is upon us. It’s like . . .
You know the scene in You’ve Got Mail, where Meg Ryan, who has run an indie bookstore for decades, gets her first look inside a five story Barnes & Noble–
And she finds a store clerk trying desperately to figure out what book series his customer is talking about–
Because the only things the customer can remember about the book is that it’s a children’s book and it’s about shoes–
And Meg knows exactly what book they are talking about and tells the clerk the series title and the book titles and the year and the publisher–
And the clerk goes off to see if they can be ordered–
And then Meg bursts into tears because she has just realized that this is what the future of book sales looks like–
Buyers and sellers both wanting something distinct and eminently identifiable, but lacking the common reference points to make it happen–
Like subject, title, author, publication date, edition–
And instead all the customers have to work with is a disconnected image in their mind–
Or a snippet of conversation–
Or a few seconds of a television or YouTube broadcast that they had encountered at some point previously–
And that becomes their only point of reference–
Their only access point–
And expect the other guy to fix it?
Yeah. It’s like that.