A library without any shelves -- or books

Conceptual renderings of Bexar County’s digital-only BiblioTech library.

The trials and tribulations of the book selling business continue. Barnes & Noble says it's going to shut down as many as a third of its stores over the next 10 years.

The book borrowing business is changing too. The folks down in Bexar County, Texas, are going to open up a bookless library, which will, one imagines, look more like an Apple Store than a Barnes & Noble.

Instead of shelves lined with hard bound editions, patrons will be able to check out e-books and e-readers for two and three weeks at a time. There will be a number of computers available for use and special e-readers for children's books.

County Judge Nelson Wolff has been instrumental in getting the project launched. Even though he considers himself more of a hard-cover book guy. Wolff says he has mixed feelings about the switch but says, "I see the world changing dramatically." He calls e-books and laptops the "way to go."

It'll take $1.5 million to set up the bookless library. But Wolff is confident that, once it's built, the community will come. Patrons who may not be comfortable with the new technology will be able to get assistance from library staff to use the equipment.

But says Wolff, there will always be a place for physical books -- and he doesn't think they'll be disappearing any time soon.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

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