“The Internet is free, and libraries are not.”
Blogger Henry Buell posted a link to this editorial as a discussion to the Informed Ideas for Writers LinkedIN Group and I thought it was worth reblogging here. Although I don’t agree with all of the points he makes or that libraries are doomed, I do agree that ebooks are changing how many people, including myself, read.
I’m also disturbed by this quote because it perpetuates a myth that is not only false but terribly detrimental to writer and bloggers (actually to any creative individuals hoping to earn a living from their art). THE INTERNET IS NOT FREE. In addition to the hardware required (at the very least a tablet or smartphone and at the opposite end a computer or laptop, modem and possibly a router too) there are also monthly connection and service fees. That’s not including the costs associated with buying ebooks and periodicals, particularly if you are doing academic type research. Access to university level libraries online (unless one is a student/has a library card) is not cheap. Access to scholarly journals and trade publications is prohibitively expensive for individuals who may only need access to a single research study or perhaps a few for a specific purpose. Yes, you can buy them that way, but at $20/article or more you can easily spend more researching a blog article or self-published book than you will earn from it. Not even newspaper morgues are free to use online, even if, to some extent the most current editions of a newspaper or magazine are available free today.
Let’s not be disingenuous, when you add up all those costs the internet is so far from free it’s competing with libraries on price. Sales types just hide the pricetags better when it comes to the internet. Added to the fact that most of us can hop online from home, if not from bed not to mention the pool, coffee house, airport, hotel, fast food joints and anywhere else wifi is publicly available including libraries and I think reports of the death of libraries are, to paraphrase Samuel Clemens, premature. Are libraries changing? Sure. That hardly means they are dying anymore than readers are every every time they pick up a new book, ebook, audiobook or whatever format they choose.