If every book has a reader, then why are bookstores and libraries not carrying every single book published, even if it's only sold or loaned out once every five years? It's the tyranny of physical space - the limitations of space have forced physical bookstores and libraries to restrict their offerings to mostly hits. With ebooks - and when (not if) we perfect the ebook reader - there's no reason to only stock the hits. For users, it means gaining access to an infinite bookstore or library.
By "every book has a reader", Aaron was quoting one of Ranganathan's Five Laws of Library Science*. Meaning, for every book that exists, there must be some one out there who would find it useful or interesting.
What got me thinking was what Aaron so eloquently put as "the tyranny of physical space"; how bookstores (and libraries) are unable to carry all that they might want to stock because of physical space constraints.
He suggests when there's a prefect eBook reader, then all digital books should be made available, i.e. "digitally stocked", by the bookstore. Or libraries.
I asked myself what would justify not stocking all titles. I came up with these inter-related reasons:
- Sheer number of available titles
- Cost of digital storage
For simplicity, let's say there are one billion (1,000,000,000,000) eBook titles.
Assuming the 80/20 rule, 80% of the eBooks are not likely to be accessed most times. This means eight-hundred-thousand-million (800,000,000,000) titles.
(Wait, did i get that right? My brain simply cannot process beyond one-million... anyway, I'm trying to say it's a freaking heck lot of unaccessed titles!)
Because of sheer numbers, some titles might never be accessed even if a reader wanted them. Because the user might fail to use the right keyword. Or did not go through all the search results page.
Of course my logic could be flawed.
- I'm not sure if I've applied the 80/20 rule correctly. Maybe it could be 50% or 10% or 0.5% that do not "have its reader".
- Some of those eBooks might
notbe hosted on somebody else's server (e.g. eBooks in the public domain). The bookstore merely has to link to them and does not incur digital storage costs for all eBook titles.
- Even if it's a freaking-heck-of-alota-unaccessed-titles, the data storage cost for them might be easily offset by the sales of those titles that do get downloaded. The bookstore might want to incur that cost as bragging rights.
All this is academic and all so rambly. I don't think there's any reliable source of what constitutes "all the eBooks in the world" (at least I've not checked if there have been esimates on this).
So maybe Aaron is right.
There really is no reason for the infinite eBook library not to exist.
[* ASIDE: I remember being blown away by the profundity of those 5 laws. Ranganathan is a genius. If I were to run a library school programme, I'd make the 'Five Laws of Library Science' a compulsory module. An indoctrination course, if you will. To me, if you don't accept and appreciate the 5 Laws, then you should reconsider being a librarian, imho.
Also remembered this earlier post: Ranganathan on Melvil Dewey, 1964 tape recording transcribed]