Book Snatching, the most violent act in the history of reading

Yoav Lorch, Founder and CEO of Total Boox, Ltd. sent me this story he wrote about snatching ebooks.  I think it’s a clever tale showing us the sad state of ebook borrowing in many of our libraries.  He gave me permission to post it here.

Book Snatching


Clearly the most violent act in the history of reading

by Yoav Lorch, Founder and CEO, Total Boox Ltd.

Its 5:20 PM. My wife should be home in about half an hour. I promised I’d do the dishes and have the place looking decent when she returns. I have 47 pages to go with my book, and I’m dying to complete it. Yes, I can complete it before it expires and evaporates from my device at 5:46, but then, the dishes. The sink looks like a railroad crash on a rainy day.

Two real tragedies are rapidly converging on my life. The book, by some royal decree, will vanish from my tablet, like Cinderella, at 17:46 sharp. No chance for appeal. To get back to it I’ll have to go through the torture of placing a hold and waiting weeks for it to re-enter my life. If I leave the sink like this for another day it will develop into a solid proof of my lack of character, and shine forever in our complex familial matrix of proofs.

The only solution is to combine. I reckon I don’t really need to see the dishes I wash. Most of it is repetitive rotational hand movement anyway, and doesn’t need much looking after. Yes, I can manage this not-so-complex balancing act. I place the tablet on a turned-over salad bowl, and pump some soap into the sponge.

When my wife appears on the scene I’m frantically trying to resuscitate the dripping tablet with a hair drier. The sink now looks like a train crash on a snowy day. I’ll probably never know how my book ended. I’m certain it no longer resides in the bowels of the struggling tablet. They train them to escape even from clinically dead, non-responding devices, in the midst of train crashes in hostile weather.

Book Snatching – The Historical Perspective

Long ago, say in 2004, Julia was sitting on a park bench, enjoying her book. It was early autumn, coldish but comfortable. There were very few people in the park and they seemed to be perfectly placed, adding a human touch to this mostly natural scene.

A man in a grey uniform walked slowly towards Julia. He stopped at her bench, stood over her, and looked at his watch. Julia barely acknowledged his presence. At a certain point, with one sharp movement, the man pulled the book from Julia’s hands, closed it, placed it under his arm, and started walking away. He muttered mechanically “Sorry, regulations, its 5:46 now”, and kept walking. Julia tried to hide her disappointment, and even attempted a smile. Rules are rules. We all know them. No need to get personal.

So what was inconceivable rudeness and absurdity in 2004 has become in 2014, with the generous assistance of modern technology, commonplace and acceptable. How did this happen?

One thought on “Book Snatching, the most violent act in the history of reading”

  1. I agree that a physical book from the library doesn’t just disappear from your house, but the overdue fees start piling up. If the alternative to having my eBook disappear is paying a dollar a day to have it sit on my Kindle until I remember it a week later…then no thanks. I can renew ebooks at my library unless it’s on hold for somebody else. And if I’m the next person waiting after you, then I want my eBook even if it makes you sad 🙂

    I agree that these are digital files, for heaven’s sake, so it does make me crazy that they can’t figure out a different model for public libraries.

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