The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

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.  

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