The future of the library and the great content divide

As someone who tweets a great deal about public libraries, this article from TheDigitalShift, Ebook Strategy and Public Libraries: Slow Just Won’t Work Anymore,  speaks volumes.

The article addresses many of the important issues at the heart of the library ebook problem such as Overdrive’s monopoly and publisher’s refusals to sell ebooks because of fears of the library model. But it is the following paragraph which presents a truly terrifying scenario:

The perfect storm formula of a monopolistic environment and the actions (or more accurately, the deliberate inaction) of publishers have resulted in the creation of a significant shift in public policy in this country. After more than 100 years of public libraries circulating materials to users, we are no longer able to provide access to critical content that now exists in digital form. As a result, two very distinct scenarios are emerging in the communities we serve. Affluent users in prosperous neighborhoods have universal broadband access, numerous ebook hosting devices, and a credit card with the disposable income to acquire whatever content they want. Low-income residents in poorer neighborhoods do not have this sequence of resources and run the risk of not being able to access digital content that will allow them to fairly participate, compete and contribute to the digital economy/world. This content divide goes against the very principles that attracted so many of us to this profession –supporting democracy by providing access to information in the broadest possible context.

The issues so succinctly raised in this article are ones that all of us, as a society, should be very, very concerned about.There is much more in the full article, including suggestions about how to work towards a solution. If you care about public libraries, this is a must read article!