By - The Digital Shift
Our primary role is to champion the rights of access for our users. Our ebook strategy needs a serious overhaul, and it needs to happen right now. Unless we move quickly, the technology divide that we’ve all been battling the last 20 years will look like a minor skirmish compared to the content divide that is mounting.
Second, we are all aware that several major publishers have refused to sell commercial digital content to public libraries via ebook aggregators. The result? Our users are being denied access to critical content and the role of public libraries could change forever if this troubling trend is not reversed. We need to catapult user access to commercial content to the top of our digital strategy or preside over our declining purpose in society.
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.
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