San Antonio to open first bookless public library


January 15, 2013

A new library project in the U.S. marks the first public library to be built as an all-digital service (Photo: Shutterstock)

A new library project in the U.S. marks the first public library to be built as an all-digital service (Photo: Shutterstock)

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A new library to be opened in Bexar County, Texas, will provide visitors with a bank of e-Readers for borrowing e-books ... but books of the traditional paper variety will be glaringly absent. The project marks the first public library to be built as an all-digital service and just to make sure library-goers are in no doubt that it's the 21st century, the interior will feature a design influenced by Apple retail stores.

The library, known as the BiblioTech, was announced by Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff and is set to open later this year. If the scheme proves successful, then similar facilities will be opened across Bexar County.

And the library’s design? “If you want an idea what it looks like, go into an Apple store,” Wolff says. The designers might have a bit of a task on their hands however, with the new library being built in a remodeled structure that currently houses the offices for Tax Assessor, Justice of the Peace and Constable. Suffice to say, its not likely to be quite up there with Apple’s Fifth Avenue store, but the artist’s impression of the interior does bear a number of the Apple Store hallmarks (at the very least, they didn’t skimp on the sheer number of iMacs).

Library goers won’t have to provide their own devices to take advantage of the BiblioTech’s digital catalog, with an initial stock of one hundred unspecified e-Readers available for lending. Visitors can borrow the devices for up to two weeks, and while the system might seem rather open to abuse, Wolff is confident that theft won’t be a widespread problem. “We do have your name, we do have your address," he says. "You check it out for two weeks, just like a library book. In two weeks, your e-book goes dead, so you won’t have anything worth keeping.”

The interior of the BiblioTech will be influenced by Apple Retail Stores

San Antonio isn’t new to the concept of bookless libraries. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) was one of the first academic institutions to offer its students a bookless library in 2010, implementing a system that proved popular with students. The public library system will differ from UTSA’s in that it will be “designed for, not adapted to, the digital age”,according to Wolff.

The facility will be housed in a government building in south San Antonio

While the jury is out on the success of the bookless library format in the public space, chance are that the new system will split public opinion right down the middle. Though e-book sales continue to grow in strength, a Publisher’s Association report on the first half of 2012 suggests that this may be having less of an impact than expected, with the sales of physical books largely unaffected.

Source: San Antonio Express-News

About the Author
Chris Wood Chris specializes in mobile technology for Gizmag, but also likes to dabble in the latest gaming gadgets. He has a degree in Politics and Ancient History from the University of Exeter, and lives in Gloucestershire, UK. In his spare time you might find him playing music, following a variety of sports or binge watching Game of Thrones. All articles by Chris Wood

IMO; I think this is way cool. I think it could be the trend for future libraries. I think some things are great as ebooks and others (photo books, maps, etc) would still be great for actual books. I think there is a place for both.

It would be neat to see these ebook libraries here in New Jersey.

Perhaps when ebooks get big with low prices but higher resolution, it could even replace the books mentioned above.

I think colleges use of ebooks is an excellent idea. They could re-issue or update text books at a lower cost and not use up trees to do so. One could just delete the older or out of date text book instead of having to store or sell them. It could help with student backs by having to only carry an e-book reader instead of those heavy text books. It could save money since ebooks are usually cheaper than printed ones.


I love the idea. Design flaw on comfort though. No one is going to want to spend a long time in that library the seats look uncomfortable and it is cramped.

Nangela Cooper

From a cost perspective, why would you use Macs? My assumption of course is that this is being paid for by tax money. I could see iPads for certain media or rich book format consumption because there are some great solutions to support a large number of iPads. I also assume the majority of leanable ebook devices will be inexpensive e-paper ones like the Kindle.

Rann Xeroxx

This is fantastic. In South Africa we have a massive problem of people, especially youth who do not like reading PRINTED BOOKS. It appears to be hard work, books are heavy and bulky and expensive, resulting in knowledge illiteracy. As all youth are very proficient in the use of mobile phones and read all in the various social media platforms, I am convinced that they would be voracious readers if they had a library in any standard reader format such as Kindle, etc. I have a dream of an e-library in my home town Pretoria, where the library has not purchased new books in the past 10 years, and the average library assistants do not read books. The dream is to have traceable WI-fi readers tagged with chips, with index / catalog of books, downloaded with USB dongle at library at a minimal per book cost; book available for 14 days then blocked (book title remains in historic file for reference, notes, and tracking); Reader rented at a monthly affordable fee which includes insurance; same reader used at institutes of learning for downloading text books valid for 12 months, etc. The rentals will pay of the initial cost of the reader which can be subsidized by Public Private Partners and donors. Microsoft could sponsor it out of the exorbitant profits the make out of the expensive software they sell in South Africa

Sarel T

finally a library that understands the concept of what a library should be, a place that not only promotes intelligence but also the innovation that intelligence makes possible. no more dirty torn pages or stolen books, no more abused books that need to be replaced and the greatest moment, access to reference material. welcome to the 21st century, how many yrs. too late ?

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