Saturday, October 1, 2011

Will e-books create a bigger digital divide?

“Could Abraham Lincoln have become president of the United States in a world in which poor children lack access to physical books?”

A recent article in Technology Review asks this question.  The piece may be best summed up with the following passage:
I challenge anyone reading this to recall his or her earliest experiences with books -- nearly all of which, I'm willing to bet, were second-hand, passed on by family members or purchased in that condition. Now consider that the eBook completely eliminates both the secondary book market and any control that libraries -- i.e. the public -- has over the copies of a text it has purchased.

Except under limited circumstances, eBooks cannot be loaned or resold. They cannot be gifted, nor discovered on a trip through the shelves of a friend or the local library. They cannot be re-bound and, unlike all the rediscovered works that literally gave birth to the Renaissance, they will not last for centuries. Indeed, publishers are already limiting the number of times a library can loan out an eBook to 26.
Herein resides one of the great challenges to ebooks today:  they do not fit our conceptual model of how books and related content worked in the past.  If I buy a song on iTunes, I can burn it to CD, share it with my friends, and more.  The same is not true with ebooks.  I frequently cannot share them, they are harder to discover, and they may even expire after a time period.  The concept of what it means to own a book is changing, and this could have implications for accessibility as well.  

No comments:

Post a Comment