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Here we'll explore the nexus of legal rulings, Capitol Hill policy-making, technical standards development, and technological innovation that creates -- and will recreate -- the networked world as we know it. Among the topics we'll touch on: intellectual property conflicts, technical architecture and innovation, the evolution of copyright, private vs. public interests in Net policy-making, lobbying and the law, and more.

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Copyfight

« Scholar Experiments With New Media Models | Main | How Many E-Books? »

September 19, 2011

No Books Means "Poor People Need Not Apply"

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Posted by Alan Wexelblat

SF author Elizabeth Bear pointed to this entry in a LiveJournal blog. It's a little bit long on passion and short on facts, but the central idea is neatly summarized:

When you have little money, you buy second-hand books. Seen a second-hand ebook lately?

Of course, you haven't. There are a few minuscule programs to allow some libraries to lend a few ebooks, but the secondary market for ebooks doesn't exist and likely never will.

It's an interesting, and somewhat frightening, question: if we really do away with physical books, what will poor people read? Should lack of money mean you lose access to the entertainment, value, education, and ideas contained in books?

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Big Thoughts


COMMENTS

1. David Maizenberg on September 19, 2011 1:04 PM writes...

Hey Dr. Wex, Dave M. here. I think part of the big unspoken driver of ebooks in the first place was precisely because there could be no secondary market. Big media companies hate product secondary markets. I'm old enough to remember not just used book fairs but the glory days of used LP record fairs, where so many discoveries and friendships were made. That's over now.

Permalink to Comment

2. DrWex on September 19, 2011 3:49 PM writes...

David I remember those days as well. Not to mention used LP shops! I think the author's point is that eliminating the secondary market has an important and overlooked social aspect that isn't present in other media.

Permalink to Comment

3. Stephen Downes on September 19, 2011 3:53 PM writes...

> if we really do away with physical books, what will poor people read?

The internet. From community access points. Which is what they're doing now.

Permalink to Comment

4. DrWex on September 20, 2011 9:50 AM writes...

Stephen: I think that's a valid point, but I'm not sure that community access points will be available. Most of those are in (wait for it) libraries now.

Another possible future is mobile readers of some kind - right now cell phone penetration is higher than 24-hour electricity penetration (or, gods help us, municipal sewage availability) in many parts of the world. If e-texts and e-information are really available on these devices then books will not be as important. But see above about second-hand ebooks.

Permalink to Comment

5. Paul Huff on September 22, 2011 10:27 PM writes...

A lot of public libraries have Overdrive, and while I think they're probably being gouged on the prices they pay, there's a decent enough selection.

Admittedly, I think if the market goes all ebook or predominantly ebook there might be some soulsearching in our local communities about whether or not to use our taxes to pay rent on a few epub files...

Permalink to Comment

6. Pranesh Prakash on November 22, 2011 10:40 AM writes...

> When you have little money, you buy second-hand books. Seen a second-hand ebook lately?

Try coming over to India, say Bangalore. I almost exclusively buy only second-hand books.

Permalink to Comment

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