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The printed book is not going away anytime soon

By Jim T. Whalen

Rowan Public Library

For many years, various reports have said the book is dead. Cassettes, CDs, MP3s and e-book  devices were much better for the reader and the publishing company. They would take over and eliminate any need for the book.

As early as the 1930s, spoken audio has been with us. Thomas Edison envisioned talking phonograph records when he invented the phonograph in the 1877. His goal was so the blind could benefit from his invention. In 1931, the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) and Library of Congress Books for the Adult Blind Project established the “Talking Books Program” (Books for the Blind), which was intended to provide reading material for veterans injured during World War I and other visually impaired adults.

Spoken recordings were popular in a 33 and 1/3 vinyl record format for schools and libraries into the early 1970s. The beginning of the modern retail market for audiobooks can be traced to the wide adoption of cassette tapes during the 1970s. Remember the Walkman? Did you know 400 million were sold?

What about the death of books? Depends on which report you read or want to believe. One claimed that fewer and fewer books are published. Everyone in the potential audience for a book already knows of hundreds of interesting and useful books to read, but has little time to read. Therefore, people are reading only books that their communities make important or even mandatory to read. There is no general audience for most nonfiction books.

Now the other side.  Despite a less-than-ideal environment — no breakout bestsellers on the adult fiction side and a lengthy, brutal election cycle that sucked nearly all of the air out of the cultural conversation — unit sales of print books were up 3.3 percent in 2016 over 2015. Total print unit sales hit 674 million, marking the third-straight year of growth, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 80 percent of print sales in the U.S.

A 2017 report says the largest gains came in the adult nonfiction category, where sales were up 6.9 percent from 2015. Several subcategories posted substantial increases; religion and self-help areas also saw boosts.

That is enough of the boring stats. Cuddling up with a Nook or Kindle is not as rewarding as a book — real paper, real page turner. RPL has digital books and a strong following, but the paper book is holding its own. Proof is in the holds on a new book. Even with multiple copies, there is a wait time. As long as this continues, so does the beloved book.

Stars, STEAM, & Fun: South, April 20, 7:30-10:30 p.m.  A special night sky watching event. The evening includes STEAM activities, face painting and more. An “Apps for Night-Sky Watching” drop-in program from 7:30-8:30 p.m. is free, but apps may have a charge. For questions on the apps, contact Paul at 704-216-7737.  “Yoga Under the Stars” by SoFul Yoga will from 8-9 p.m. After sunset, Horizons Unlimited staff with guide the night sky viewing, held on the lawn of the J. Fred Corriher Jr. YMCA. This is part of the 2018 statewide Star Party, sponsored by the NC Science Festival. Call 704-216-7730 with questions.

Family STEAM Night: North Rowan Elementary School, April 17, 5:30-7:30 p.m. Students and families from North Elementary (only) at 600 Charles St. in Spencer, are invited to special activities, including playing with robots, and to learn about Rowan Public Library. To request a STEAM night at your school, contact Jennifer Nicholson at 704-216-8229.

Hats off to you, Earth: Headquarters, April 21, 10 a.m. Celebrate Earth Day, Lorax style. Crafts and activities begin at 10 am, with a showing of “The Lorax” (PG, 95 min.) at 11 am. Recommended for children 5-11 years old, though all children are welcome. Also at South Rowan Regional April 23, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Teen Board: Want to be part of a Teen Advisory Board and make decisions about upcoming teen library programs? Or just want to play some board games? Now you can do both. Headquarters, April 24, 4:30 p.m.

Murder Mystery Night: There’s been a murder at the library! Search the crime scene for clues, interview all the suspects, and be the first to find out who the culprit is. The murderer could be anyone — including you! Headquarters, April 17, 4:30; East, April 16, 6:3- p.m.; South, April 18, 6 p.m.

“The Great War,” a reader’s theatre production by the Phoenix Readers: April 23, 6:30 p.m., headquarters. This will feature short stories, personal letters, songs and remembrances from Michael Morpurgo’s “Only Remembered.” This free event is open to the public. Contact Gretchen Witt at 704-216-8232 for more information. The Phoenix Readers is a volunteer readers’ theatre company comprised of people aged 55 and older and is part of the Center for Faith and the Arts (CFA) in Salisbury. Learn more about CFA by visiting www.faithart.org.

NC Department of Natural & Cultural Resources Traveling Exhibit: North Carolina in World War I (HQ). In honor of the centennial of World War I, this traveling exhibit contains panels with information on both the soldiers abroad and the home front here in North Carolina. It shares information on the various military installations in the state, discusses U-boat activity off the coast, and seeks to put the war in context. View the exhibit in headquarters’ lobby, during business hours through May 20.

Photowalk: April 21, 10:30 a.m.-noon, Dan Nicholas Park. Bring your digital camera or phone to take photos together. Questions? Contact Paul at Paul.Birkhead@rowancountync.gov or 704-216-7737.

Chapter Chats: Weekly book club for teens 14-17, primarily for participants with developmental or intellectual disabilities, though all are welcome. Mondays, 5 p.m. at East Branch, Rockwell. Contact Tammie Foster at 704-216-7842.

PJ Storytime: Headquarters, April 23, 6:30 p.m. Put on your pajamas, grab a blanket and your favorite stuffed animal, and join us for a special evening storytime. Recommended for children 3-11 years old, though all children are welcome.

Displays: Headquarters, Sexual Assault Awareness Month presented by Rowan Crisis Council and Robotics – Found Art presented by John Michael Deal; East, the Process of Making Honey presented by Lee Williams; South, Celebrating the Wonders of Space presented by RPL staff.

Literacy: Call the Rowan County Literacy Council at 704-216-8266 for more information on teaching or receiving literacy tutoring for English speakers or for those for whom English is a second language.

Tail Waggin’ Tutors: 7 to 9 years old. Children can practice reading skills in a relaxed, dog-friendly atmosphere. Canine listeners provided by Therapy Dogs International. Headquarters, selected Tuesdays, 4 p.m. Call 704-216-8234 for details. East, selected Mondays, 3:30 p.m., Call 704-216-7842 for details.

Baby Time: Birth-23 months. Highly interactive 30-minute program for children and their adult caregivers. Headquarters, Wednesdays, 10 a.m.; East, Mondays, 10 a.m.; South, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.

Toddler Time: 18 to 35 months. Highly interactive 30-minute program for children and their adult caregivers. Headquarters, Tuesdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Mondays, 11 a.m.; South, Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m.

Preschoolers: 3-5 years. Highly interactive 30-minute program for children and their adult caregivers. Headquarters, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; East, Thursdays, 10:30 a.m.; South, Mondays, 10 a.m.

Noodlehead Storytime: Pre-K to fifth grade. Interactive storytime. Headquarters, Thursday, 4 p.m.; East, Tuesdays 3:30 p.m.; South Wednesdays, 3:30 p.m.

Art programs: Pre-K to fifth grade. Learn art terms, techniques and work on art projects; 30-45 minutes. Art in the Afternoon, headquarters, Thursdays, 4:30 p.m.; Bethany’s Brushes, East, Tuesdays, 4 p.m.; Canvas Kids, South, Wednesdays, 4 p.m.

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