Today I visited a long-forgotten friend: the public library. It’s been far too long since I’ve been down there. Maybe because now we’re living in the digital information age, and the resources that are on the Internet far outstrech the number of books they can stuff into one building in the middle of town. More likely it’s just because deep down I’m lazy and I usually just want to jet right home after work. In either case, I had a little time today; I got off work early, but my wife was still at her job, and I felt like rummaging around some rock-solid stacks of information for a change. Now, I’ve worked in, on and with the web long enough that I’m not going to say something trite like “Books are real and the Web is not.” Yet, at the same time, books do have some advantages. There’s the sense of knowing that an author had to spend months, or years, researching and writing the book. An editor had to go over it and judge that it was ready for print. A publishing house somewhere had to have confidence in the author, the editor, and the content of the book to put out the cost of printing the book. That somehow validates the books, gives them a vote of confidence that a web site doesn’t carry.
Of course, there is such a thing as a bad book. Plenty of them. More than plenty. And at the same time that all of the above factors are giving me a firm respect for books in general, I know that most books are churned out with nothing more than profit in mind, and a well-written web site by a respected author is worth more than an entire stack of those books. So, all of this is my way of saying that books still have a place in my life. But only good books.
That’s why I went down to the library today, to sift through the stacks and see what I could find. I went to the computer section, where most of the books were of the “Learn HTML in 21 days” variety. I was trying to looks beyond that (as I always do when looking for computer books) and find something really meaty. Something about information science or interaction design or something else suitably intense. I did find a copy of Alan Cooper’s The Inmates Are Running the Asylum, which I’ve never read. So, I picked that up. It comes highly recommended amongst the IA crowd, and the chapter I read in the library pulled me in. I’m sure it will give me plenty to think of as I’m building more and more web sites.
I also went down to look at business books. It’s been half a year since I set up my website. It was supposed to be the web-end to my brand-new business. As of today, it’s still the only part of my business. And this blog is really the only thing on my site. Sounds like a failed business to me. Actually, it’s one that never got off the ground, since I don’t know the first thing about business or marketing or accounting or any of that. That’s why I went down to pick up a business book. The web seems to be sorely lacking in basic information for people like me, who know nothing about business or starting one. That’s another place where the web has it’s shortcomings: most web sites don’t focus on one topic and give you and in-depth look in the same way a book can. So, sometimes you just can’t beat a book.
And that’s my “diary of diurnal detail” for the day. Hopefully I won’t go another month between writings this time. I really need to use this to develop my writing.