Hawking Up Hairballs

Monday, September 14, 2009

A New Dark Ages?

Could this be a sign? Is a new Dark Ages upon us? Being of a cynical bent, I'm prepared to believe it. In any case, it's a cause for alarm. The Philadelphia public libraries are shutting their doors because they're bankrupt. As is usually the case with such measures, it is the poor among us who will suffer most from this, since they do not have the financial resources to purchase books. Unfortunately this is going to become a trend, and not just because of the current financial and economic crisis.

There was a time when rich philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie endowed public libraries. Not anymore, not in the age of the rise of the ebook. Yes, devices like Amazon's Kindle are intended to make readers pay for the right to read a book.
Why do I say that? It's because of the business model. I'll use the Kindle as an example, though there are other ebook readers as well. First of all, you have to pay $300 to purchase the Kindle. Then, when you purchase books, you aren't really buying the books, not in the sense that you've traditionally understood it. You are merely purchasing the right to read that book on that particular Kindle. You cannot transfer to another Kindle, not to mention another ebook reader, which means that you can't give it or loan it to anyone else. In other words, you are just purchasing reading rights on a particular Kindle. When ebook readers finally catch on in a big way, which I'm afraid that they will, public libraries will become a thing of the past. Those who do not have the financial resources to purchase an ebook reader and the books that he might want to read will just plain be out of luck. And you really believed all that bullshit about the PC revolution ushering in a new age of online democracy and public access? No, folks, it's the same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was...


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