First bookless library opens in Texas, offers e-readers

The smell of old paper. The rough texture as you're turning the pages. The rips, creases, and folds inside the books. All of these may soon be things of the past if the concept of the new library in San Antonio, Texas takes hold in the world.

BiblioTech is the first library that is 100% digital. The building, which according to MyFoxNY cost only $2.3 million dollars, houses not a single book. Instead, it uses computers, tablets, and e-readers to get patrons of Bexar county the information they need. The library's layout is based on an Apple Store: librarians wear matching shirts and hoodies; rows of iMacs fill the area; iPads line the bar; and e-readers wait to be checked out. Although the digital versions of the books still cost the library roughly the same amount of money, they were able to cut most of the building costs by not having to have as large of an area and not having to worry about reinforcing the floors to support the extra weight. By way of comparison, Austin, Texas is building a new library with a pricetag of $120 million, and it's not expected to open until 2016.

Users are free to use any of the computer equipment they want in the building, although there can often be a line for the computers. They can also check out e-reader with up to five books at a time. Although there was initially fear of theft, BiblioTech reports that not a single e-reader has been lost or stolen yet. They expect 100,000 patrons by the end of the year, and the concept has brought people from as far away as Hong Kong to see if the idea is worth replicating in other locations.

If this trend continues, will you be sad to see the demise of paper books? Or is the convenience of an e-ink device (or traditional tablet) the natural progression of the written word?

Source: MyFoxNY | Image courtesy of MyFoxNY

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Major Nelson responds to Xbox One criticism, points to future improvements

Next Story

Huawei's new aluminium Windows Phone expected to début at CES

37 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

> The smell of old paper. The rough texture as you're turning the pages. The rips, creases, and folds inside the books.

...the complete absence of spam.

Seriously, it took me this long to finally get myself an ebook reader--got one during boxing week (Kobo-something-or-other). I haven't even received it yet, but Kobo has been sending me spam *EVERY* *****ING* *DAY* since the purchase. With no link to unsubscribe, either from the content of the email itself, or on my account on their site.

Eventually I just blocked them.

I'm not a big book reader. I have a few dozens at most (printed I mean). However, *NOBODY*'s ever sent me junk mail as a result of buying any of those books.

It's not about the media consumption itself. It's about the associated tracking, whether it's ebooks, iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, etc etc etc. They can all **** right off.

And also being able to print hundreds of books for the cost of a single tablet. It's particularly shameless of these companies pushing expensive electronic devices on third world countries which could definitely use the money better on other things.

I would argue that proofing, printing, shipping, and storing a few hundred books probably costs more than producing one electronic device and storing a thousand books on it, assuming said third world country has access to electricity.

Mr. Hand said,
Yea, that's the intention as mentioned in the article. It's basically a big Apple commercial at the tax payer's expense.

Actually if you zoom in the picture you will see that the monitor is a HP.

Fritzly said,

Actually if you zoom in the picture you will see that the monitor is a HP.

But if you Nokia Lumia 1020 zoom in to the back, you will see that there are iMacs.

Enron said,

But if you Nokia Lumia 1020 zoom in to the back, you will see that there are iMacs.


Indeed, I noted that using my 920 as well but my point is that the,hyperbole about being an "Apple library" is not correct.

Fritzly said,

Indeed, I noted that using my 920 as well but my point is that the,hyperbole about being an "Apple library" is not correct.

Why is it designed like the Apple store?

Mr. Hand said,

Why is it designed like the Apple store?


Maybe for the same reasons why MS stores are alike Apple stores meaning that is what the public likes?

Mr. Hand said,
I should be interesting to see how the cost works out. The big issue is an e-reader is much more fragile and has a shorter lifespan than a book.

Compared to that new library being built in Austin, this library has an extra $117 million to replace broken e-readers with.

Mr. Hand said,
That's not much and a one time cost verse a recurring operating cost. Basically this is a big cash flow from the tax payer to Apple.

Partially -- with the iMacs and tablets. However they specifically say "e-readers" for the books; I'm not sure what company is providing those, but Apple has no e-readers that I'm aware of.

Fezmid said,

Partially -- with the iMacs and tablets. However they specifically say "e-readers" for the books; I'm not sure what company is providing those, but Apple has no e-readers that I'm aware of.

That depends on how you define e-reader. I consider that e-ink but I know a lot of people consider that as "any device that doesn't have a keyboard."

Anonymity is important in libraries, wonder if that will be respected. I like the idea just hope it doesn't turn into another way to monitor.

Hahaiah said,
Anonymity is important in libraries, wonder if that will be respected. I like the idea just hope it doesn't turn into another way to monitor.

You must be from a different country. I have never been to a library where you didn't need to have an account to borrow books.

Fritzly said,

Yes it is.

So you anonymously get a library card, anonymously put your photo on it, and anonymously swipe it every time you want to borrow a book? Tell me how you accomplish that... If this isn't how it works where you live, it is how it works in Texas, so no, privacy has jack all to do with libraries. Why the hell does everything have to come down to privacy?

siah1214 said,

So you anonymously get a library card, anonymously put your photo on it, and anonymously swipe it every time you want to borrow a book? Tell me how you accomplish that... If this isn't how it works where you live, it is how it works in Texas, so no, privacy has jack all to do with libraries. Why the hell does everything have to come down to privacy?

Maybe Fritzly means that you can walk into the library and read whatever you want, as long as you don't take it out of the building... With this new system, you'll probably need to identify yourself to use any of the technology.

Fezmid said,

Maybe Fritzly means that you can walk into the library and read whatever you want, as long as you don't take it out of the building... With this new system, you'll probably need to identify yourself to use any of the technology.

Thank you... this was exactly my point.

If the library is digital, should it not also be possible to borrow and return books without even leaving your house?

My public libraries allow this. Using the Overdrive Media Console (iOS tablets), I can browse the library's e-book catalog website, check out books, and then download them. They automatically delete after the check-out period, or I can manually "return" the book and check out more. Holds can be placed through this system, as well. It doesn't matter where I am in the world, nor what time of day it is; as long as I have an internet connection, I can perform these functions. The convenience of it is wonderful.

Being able to load up ten books (my library's limit) and only carry one iPad has also allowed me to "carry books" with me to places where I would not otherwise have been able to. I've read a lot more as a result. There's still something special about going to a library and reading from physical books, but it's more nostalgia than anything else for me. As a matter of practicality, e-books win out (although I feel for the people who have difficulty reading from screens for long periods of time).

thommcg said,
You could ask the reverse of more recent releases...

Very true that 're-releases' of print copies can be edited and revised, but the previous print releases persist somewhere.

Is the same true of e-book versions? Are they copies of the first press printed edition or some later revision? Are first edition versions available? And similarly to how history books have been revised over the years, will they say the US Civil War started and was fought because of states' rights (the truth) or because of slavery (the revisionist history)?

It's happening, whether people like it or not. Real books are on their way out just like cassettes, CD's etc.

And yeah yeah, I hear ya, "e-books don't give you the 'feel' of a real book"......get over it and move on with the times!

The Dark Knight said,
It's happening, whether people like it or not. Real books are on their way out just like cassettes, CD's etc.

And yeah yeah, I hear ya, "e-books don't give you the 'feel' of a real book"......get over it and move on with the times!

I think sometimes it's the withdrawal from toner and paper production chemicals.

The Dark Knight said,
It's happening, whether people like it or not. Real books are on their way out just like cassettes, CD's etc.

And yeah yeah, I hear ya, "e-books don't give you the 'feel' of a real book"......get over it and move on with the times!


T each his own... Even when CDs became mainstream I never threw away my, extensive, collection of LPs or my beloved Technics SL 1200 turntable; actually I started buying LPs years ago and now there is a resurgence of the format.

It's happening only for rich people. The fact that you can print truck loads of books for the cost of a couple boxes of e-readers that probably will only last a few years makes them pretty ridiculous is most of the world.

"We will make electricity so cheap that only the rich will burn candles."
Thomas Edison
(kind of the same thing, soon only rich people will have the nice printed books)

This is awesome, no doubt, and I would love to check it out.
The only slight problem might be with the actual reading. Maybe it's my tablet or computer screen that's rubbish, but I still can't read quite as long on it as I can a normal, paper book.

Yes, most people know that. The better screen to read on is the E-ink display like on the amazon kindle.

Sszecret said,
This is awesome, no doubt, and I would love to check it out.
The only slight problem might be with the actual reading. Maybe it's my tablet or computer screen that's rubbish, but I still can't read quite as long on it as I can a normal, paper book.

Invizibleyez said,
The better screen to read on is the E-ink display like on the amazon kindle.

Big +1 for e-ink.. my tablet's ok to read on, but the wife has one of the original Kindles.. that thing is super comfortable on the eyes, day or night. Not for everybody though, prefer one device for everything myself, but it's still a good option.