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‘Close The Libraries And Buy Everyone An Amazon Kindle Unlimited Subscription’ – Forbes

TimWorstallLibraryHater1[1]Amazon’s new subscription plan for e-book readers is already ammo for library-haters. Check out this gem in Forbes online.

The headline I’ve quoted reflects the precise sentiments of the article: “Let’s just close down the lending libraries and buy every citizen an Amazon Kindle Unlimited subscription.”

Granted, writer Tim Worstall is a British loony despite his appearances in mainstream publications (in both the the U.K. and the States). But you can bet that the anti-library faction in America is alive and well even if it normally isn’t as direct as Worstall.

Consider the travails of the local system in Troy, Michigan. Alas, books have suffered especially in many places. In my hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, Amazon’s number one reading city, the budget for books and other collection items is around $2.60 per capita. National spending on public library content is a mere $1.2 billion or so a year, or less than the worth of the “poorest” billionaire on the Forbes 400 list.

While most Americans like the idea of public libraries, this does not necessarily mean their politicians do, as shown by House Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s dream of killing off the Institute of Museum and Library Services. I wouldn’t be surprised if Ryan was thinking along the same lines as Worstall.

More lessons here for the Digital Public Library of America? Please, DPLA; listen to the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies. If you love public libraries, you’ll immediately drop the P word from your name—lest our own Worstalls eventually use it to say local libraries are redundant. Call yourself what you actually are, the Digital Academic Library of America. Don’t preempt the creation of a real “public” system.

Even a genuine national public digital library system should not include “public” in its name. Let “public library” remain what it is in effect—a brand name for local systems.

Needless to say, genuine public libraries of any kind are Amazon not; and they are not mere Netflix equivalents, either. Their services are far more extensive.

Instead of closing public libraries, both Americans and people elsewhere should be moving in the opposite direction and use them to address the literacy issue and others. See LibraryCity’s proposal for a national digital library endowment that could help pay for such activities as cell phone book clubs (the offering would be far more varied and substantive than the name would suggest).

Especially in the wake of the new Amazon service and the Worstall commmentary, an ALA resolution in favor of the endowment is long overdue. I don’t see the “Unlimited” service as an immediate threat; the collection is too limited. But why wait, given all the other reasons, including the ongoing phase-out of the Gates global libraries initiative? The ALA should act ASAP.

reposted from Library City under a CC license

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Iver H. July 21, 2014 um 4:42 pm

I think this is a phenomenal idea. The vacant libraries could then be sold to Amazon so they’ll have more central locations for sweatshops (where the former librarians can now find gainful employment – just remember to bring your own fan) and/or drone launch pads. Its a win-win.

Nate Hoffelder July 21, 2014 um 5:16 pm

Amazon could also use the ex-library buildings as labor camps for the authors that Charlie Stross thinks Amazon will enslave one day.

David H. Rothman July 21, 2014 um 5:07 pm

Right on, Iver! Nice touch, those drone pads. At least you’re in your satirical mode.

Alas, contrary to the thinking of some, Worstall wasn’t in his. Just look at his dead-serious replies to Forbes readers.

dave July 21, 2014 um 5:16 pm

Swell idea if all they want to read is free or almost free dreck or books that may have been popular years ago.

Jon Jermey July 21, 2014 um 5:36 pm

It’s fascinating to see so many people supporting the production and sale of indie eBooks because they avoid intermediation by publishers, while simultaneously supporting intermediation by public libraries. It really does seem to be an attitude of 'Four legs good, two legs bad'. If it’s desirable to remove publishers and give people direct access to the creators of the books they want to read, then it’s desirable to remove libraries for the same reason — because they soak up funds that could be put to work more efficiently — as Tim Worstall has quite reasonably pointed out — putting people more or less directly in touch with authors. Whether Amazon is an ideal medium for this is open to doubt, but it’s certainly the best we’ve got at the moment.

Anecdotes are not evidence, of course, but the last few times I’ve been into a small public library in the Blue Mountains, there’s been a notable absence of customers. Perhaps local librarians could be consulted about just how long a useful life they think their branches have.

Nate Hoffelder July 21, 2014 um 5:43 pm

That’s ridiculous. I might not know much about libraries but even I know they fill a hundred and one other needs in the community that just as a warehouse for books.

Nate Hoffelder July 21, 2014 um 7:00 pm

Here’s one example:

There’s also the internet and computer access provided for people to poor to afford it on their own. And don’t forget the database, reference books, and nonfiction collection which a library maintains and can help you search.

Amber July 21, 2014 um 5:41 pm

The article at Forbes is ridiculous . Looking at the comment the author is very disrespectful and it is obvious he is just trying to anger people.

I’m not really getting the connect between Libraries and Kindle Unlimited in the first place. Libraries offer alot more than just books, and they have alot more books than KU. Considering the the big 5 publishers probably aren’t going to be jumping on the KU bandwagon, libraries are still going to be the place to go for their titles. Yet on the flip side I would imagine that KU has alot more indie/self published books you aren’t going to find at you library. Not to mention that there are no waiting list at KU. Neither place is perfect and each one offer something the other doesn’t.

I also find it funny there is all this fuss over KU but services that are almost exactly like them have been offered for a while. No one was say close down the libraries Scribd is here.

Sarah July 22, 2014 um 3:04 pm

So if I subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, will Amazon provide me with free Internet access? One-on-one help formatting my resume and attaching files to my email? Classes that will teach me how to do genealogy research or use MS Office? Story times for my kids? Databases to learn languages and take practice exams for school and work? A safe place to escape the heat or cold? Study rooms for tutoring? I could go on, but clearly the idea is ridiculous.

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