The E Reader Divide

Everyone is very excited about E Readers – news analysts are saying ebooks are out selling paper books – which they are in numbers.  However there is something that most people are missing in the excitement of owning their new eReader.

That there is now another divide between the rich and poor.  Books although not cheap are usually accessible through the libraries which are now disappearing as the internet and ereaders allow those who can afford it – to have more convenient and easy access to knowledge in their homes – myself included.

As libraries close so does easy access to knowledge for those who are poor, those on a limited budget or those wanting to simply save money while supporting a local resource.  Libraries are the store houses of knowledge that allowed everyone to increase their own without having to break the bank or be of the elite.  Libraries such as the library at Alexandria, Egypt were such great losses when they burned because they held such vast knowledge within their walls.

Are we now self selecting ourselves out of such access to such knowledge?

I am one of those who is on the fence about the whole ereader thing.  I really enjoy the weight, feel and smell of a book.  Actually turning the page is part of the reading experience.  I also am not keen on being forced to pay $9.99 a book when I can get that same book for its weight in postage through my favorite book trading website Paperback which would be between $2.50 – $5.00 give or take depending on distance in addition I get credits to trade for another book for exchanging books on my bookshelf.

This whole paying to read is really unattractive in my eyes.  I also now have a new gadget that I have to pay to keep charged – through my electrical bill and possibly repair should something break.  Regular books don’t need a charger to keep the fun and excitement of reading going – they don’t cost you extra dollars on your electrical bill nor do they need repairs if you take good care of them as evidenced by a brisk antique book sales some of them costing thousands if not millions of dollars to own.

I can also share any book I own with anyone I want to share it will for however long I wish to or not – there are book thieves out there – you know who I am talking about – they “borrow” a book and never return it.  Ereaders limit how many, how often and how long you can share a book.  Which is just plain ridiculous given you paid for the book – it’s now your property to do with as you please.

I think one of my fondest memories is sharing the childhood books I still have with my younger cousins – holding them on my lap as we turn the pages and I did the various voices for Madeline, Babar, Curious George and Berenstain Bears.

This is lost in the new automated world where books will read to a child animated with video – just as the ability to imagine the story is lost for that child just as parental interaction is now longer necessary.

The beauty of books is they are in themselves complete and allow the reader to create new worlds for themselves – without limits or preconceived ideas of what things should look or sound like.  That reading and having access to books could at one time level the playing field for the slave, servants, the poor and working class is something powerful – we give away that power and create a new gap to bridge with the ereaders between the technological haves and have nots.

So before purchasing.. pause.. and considering is what I gaining just a few gigabytes of storage or am I losing so much more?


4 thoughts on “The E Reader Divide

  1. I’m on the fence too. I see where you’re coming from. My mother had 3k pounds of books, and 2k of piano music! I have paid to have books shipped all over now. I love books. (I worked in the Bookstore business for 10 years.)

    On the one hand, I haven’t lived near a REALLY good library in several years. The last place I lived, the selection was heavily Right Wing Conservative Christian. Many of the books I wanted to read, I would have to buy anyway. And new novels, you had to put your name on a waiting list, and then pay to read it.

    Where I live now, the Library has is fairly decent. (The books on local history and lore are fabulous!)

    What’s really disturbing is that we have only 2 book stores- a Borders, which is closing soon, and a used book store which is almost as expensive as NEW books! SHOCKING!

    Then again, this really isn’t considered to be much of a book reading town. (In all the dozens and dozens of garage/yard sales, it took me a year and a half to find anything like a book case!)

    I have turned to reading books online more and more. The Kindle app for BlackBerry and PC ROCKS! I’ve been able to download loads of reading for free! And I have been able to find books that the library doesn’t carry, for a couple of bucks. And I don’t even have to pay for shipping! (When in Hawaii, you HAVE to find free shipping, because it’s prohibitively expensive! And then forget that you ordered, because it takes weeks, even months!)

    But still, I do miss going to a really good book store, and browsing the racks and touching and feeling and SMELLING them. But I can see sitting in the middle of no where, with a solar charger, and reading a new book, bought for the price of a Starbucks, on my BlackBerry.

  2. Volunteering at the local library has been giving me a few recurring thoughts against buying reading material on-line.I have mulled those thoughts enough and have found myself exploring the pros and cons of the most popular electronic book devices. However, you have raised several excellent points that I must now ponder, for I was about to join the ranks of the e-readers.

  3. I have a kindle, which is really convenient for when I travel or am on the go (living in NYC, it’s a pain to carry around a book on the subway). However, I do miss holding a book – when I am at home, I would prefer to read an actual book than on my kindle. If I really love a book, I am likely to own both copies, which I know is kinda a waste. The main reason for my buying electronic versions for my Peace Corps service (hopefully) – as much as I would love to bring my whole library, I think I could fill my 80 pound weight limit completely with books! The Kindle is great for storing many books for long trips or on the go, but I do miss my real books.

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