A county in Texas is planning to cut its library system's connection to the printed page by going totally digital in the coming months.
Bexar County, which surrounds San Antonio, recently announced its plans to establish a bookless library system. The new system—called BiblioTech, a wordplay on the Spanish term for library: biblioteca—would be the first public library system in the nation to go bookless.
BiblioTech's first branch is scheduled to open in the fall in an existing county-owned building on the south side of San Antonio. "If you want to get an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store," the moving force behind the scheme, Judge Nelson Wolff, told the San Antonio Express-News.
"It's not a replacement for the [city] library system, it's an enhancement," Wolff added.
The county expects to pay $250,000 for the first 10,000 titles in the library.
Copyright issues have cropped up between publishers and libraries from time to time. For example, Penguin pulled its e-books from libraries in 2011 citing concerns over security. Penguin remains one of four major publishers that do not make e-books available to libraries, although it launched a pilot program in New York City last year that could eventually thaw the situation between publishers and libraries.
BiblioTech's first branch will also be stocked with 100 e-readers, too. The readers will be loaned to library members as books are loaned now in conventional libraries.
On a smaller scale, Amazon has had a lending program for more than a year for users of its Kindle e-book platform who subscribe to Amazon's Prime service.
Bookless public library experiments have been tried in other parts of the country with mixed results.
In 2011, Newport Beach, California proposed making its public library system digital, but public opposition torpedoed the idea. In Arizona, Tucson-Pima county opened a bookless branch, but later started stocking it with traditional books at the request of library members.
Universities have been at the forefront of digital libraries for years. Kansas State University took its engineering library bookless in 2000. Stanford University and the University of Texas in San Antonio have also digitized all or most of their engineering school libraries.