Nov 26, 2013
Oct 30, 2013
Oct 05, 2013
Time for an update.
In my first posting on this issue, in October 2011, I said, “I do not believe I am being an alarmist. We are in a political climate where public services are being privatized, downsized, or eliminated at a rapid rate. And if [public] libraries cannot begin to serve their patrons’ eBook reading needs—and they don’t come close to doing so today–and an Amazon or other commercial endeavor steps in to fill that need, libraries are finished.”
Shortly after I wrote that, Amazon introduced the book-lending add-on to its Prime account service: Prime members could now borrow one book a month with no due date. This was in addition to other Prime advantages: two-day delivery and a video collection made available for streaming. It was an effective sweetener to the $70-per-year Prime account and today Amazon has over 430,000 titles available to Prime borrowers.
Still, Amazon Prime lending isn’t much of a threat to libraries—yet. Real readers need a good deal more than a one-book fix every month. And the content remains problematic. Most, if not all, current bestsellers (or even second- or third-string bestsellers) are not available for Prime lending. But if you're a slow reader and happy with the ten-thousandth knockoff of Twilight, Prime lending may very well be providing a disincentive for visiting, or supporting, your local library.
However, two new commercial endeavors pose a far greater threat: Scribd and Oyster. The former has been around a while, providing online documents in a rather eccentric presentation mode. They and new startup Oyster are offering Netflix-like subscription plans for “all you can read” at less than $10 per month.
Oyster touts 100,000 titles, mostly consisting of the HarperCollins backlist (again, no current hot-ticket items yet available) and a few smaller publishers. Scribd doesn’ break out book numbers from its claim of having “40 million documents.” I could not find a facility to search either collection for the titles on my six-page To-Read list, though I suspect I would not find many, if any, of them available.
So content remains a problem. Your latest Grisham or Grafton is almost certainly at your public library (though not digitally, and you may have to be on a waiting list—but it is there).
Still, these vendors bring us another important step closer to The End of Libraries. By offering all you can read at a price affordable by most middle-class readers, they have gone the next mile in obviating the need for a public library for those individuals most likely to utilize and support it. All that remains now is the content puzzle. Once a Scribd, Oyster, or Amazon figures out how to convince publishers of the financial benefits of making all their publications, including new ones, available to their programs (see part II of The End of Libraries), then it is game over for public library support, and we will see libraries close at an even great rate than they are closing today.
And Our Banana Republic will be that much closer to becoming a reality.
Sep 18, 2013
Sep 03, 2013
We don't have a dog in this fight. We don't have a side to side with. The Arab world is in deep turmoil, caught between the forces of longstanding (and often US-maintained) dictatorships and antediluvian fundamentalism. Oil is about to go through the roof (according to Kiplinger forecasts), from the current $107 a barrel now to probably $120 to $140.
If there was ever a time to call upon America's instinct for isolationism, it's now. If there was ever a time to focus our extensive innovative and entrepreneurial talents on renewable sources of energy, it's now. If there was ever a time to stifle our rush to solve the world's problems through a unilateral application of force, for which no one has yet offered a convincing scenario for success, it's now.
The people are speaking and we don't want another mideast conflict. We may, and should, and must, shed many a tear for those poor dead children laid out in their shrouded rows. But everyone's fight cannot be our fight. We don't have the prestige, the power, or the right to intervene unilaterally.
Write your representative. Tell her or him that you oppose this war. Write your senators and tell them that you oppose this war.
They may very well take us to war yet again, anyway—historical precedent does not assuage our anxieties in this regard. But if you don't speak up to your congressman and to your senators, and they go to war next week, it will, to a small extent, be your fault.
So don't just go up on Facebook and grouse to your Friends. Our nation's future, to a small but so-important extent, is in your hands.
Aug 25, 2013
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