Will eBooks Create An Elite Reading Class?

Karin Slaughter @ The Huffington Post - The notion of a public library is a fairly new one. Prior to the Civil War, most libraries were either privately owned or housed in universities or churches. While we can rightfully thank Andrew Carnegie for helping bring libraries to the masses, Women's clubs started over seventy-five percent of our public libraries. These ladies understood that access to the written word equals access to opportunity. If there is still an American dream, reading is one of the bootstraps by which we can all pull ourselves up.

With this in mind, I have to wonder what Mr. Carnegie and the Women's clubs would think of eBook readers. On one hand, here is a device that can put a limitless supply of books at your fingertips. On the other hand, here is a device that is so expensive that only a select few can afford it. It seems to me that with digitized books, we are taking a giant leap into the past, when access to literature was available only to those of means.

The possibility of a new "reading class" isn't that far-fetched. If the great prognosticators are to be believed, we will be looking at a completely digitized book industry within the next ten to fifteen years. Understandably, publishers and booksellers are worried about their place in this future. As for me, I am worried about my readers.

According to the latest census statistics, the more affluent the members of a household, the more likely they are to own a computer. When income, race and education come into play, the percentage of people without a computer is cut by almost half. One can assume these skewed demographics translate to eBook readers. Minimum wage still trails behind the price of most paperbacks. Do we really expect a person who has to work roughly three and a half hours a day in order to earn the price of a hardcover book to shell out the money for an electronic reader? Read more.


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