Can libraries, bookstores, and Kindle peacefully coexist?

"Having fun isn't hard when you have a library card." Or so Peter Daining reminds us in his worthy post today on Tainted Green entitled "Libraries: The cheaper, greener alternative to  book stores" in which he notes that, "it takes around 30 million trees to produce all the books in the US."

If borrowing a book is not always as speedy as buying one, Daining exhorts us to take this quick pop quiz before we plunk down our dollars for the paperback du jour: "What’s better for the earth, waiting for a week for your neighbor to finish reading a book, or each buying a copy?"

"The green movement is a lot like preschool," Daining counsels. "Patience and sharing must be key virtues of the environmental movement, if it is to succeed."

I love the sentiment (and his blog) but I must admit that I remain a bit torn.

I adore my branch of the Boston public library. It is literally across the street from my home (I can see into the stacks from my bedroom window) and I am amazed at the books they can find for me through the inter-library loan system.

But at the same time, I am also an enthusiastic patron of our local independent bookstores (and, it must be confessed) sometimes even the chains. (A Friday night spent in a big Barnes & Noble is at least as good as most movies.) And I have a Kindle which, for convenience and speed, is well worth its tiny weight in gold.

I want to be green and I love the idea that in every city there is somewhere that anyone can find free books. So long live our wonderful public library system.

But I also want to see our bookstores survive (or better, even thrive). And at the same time I am one of the optimists who believes that in the long run (once the dust settles) devices like the Kindle will be good for reading.

So I guess I would like to believe that there is room for all three in our lives – libraries, bookstores, e-readers – and that all have their somewhat different uses and will find a way to peacefully coexist.

What do you think? Am I being naive – or are there enough different kinds of readers out there to support all three?

Marjorie Kehe is the Monitor’s book editor. You can follow her on Twitter at

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