Amazon the new library?

21 Jul

Amazon has recently launched a new “Netflix-like” subscription service for ebooks.  And a number of recent articles are posting that Amazon is now going to replace libraries with this service.  Including this article from Great Britain, whose author believes that the country could save money by offering an ebook subscription from Amazon for every citizen in lieu of paying for public libraries.  …Where do I begin?

Public libraries, in today’s society, are much more than a building full of books.  Libraries offer services, resources, programs, and Internet access for their communities – this is all on top of the books they offer within the library and online.  Public libraries have a HUGE return on investment and provide educational opportunities for community members in all sorts of interesting areas.  If you’re interested, the Free Library of Philadelphia did a huge return on investment study a few years ago and the results are really interesting!  And even though many people believe that everyone has access to the Internet from home, it’s just not true.  As an example, in 2011 studies found that 41% of Philadelphia households lacked Internet access at home!  Where else can you access free Internet access which you need to apply to jobs, apply for government assistance, and so much more?

I’m pretty sure Amazon is not going to start offering free Internet access, community centers of learning, or classes to learn about gardening, knitting, gaming, technology, and more.  And if (or when) they do, then we can discuss if they’re going to run libraries out of business.  As for now, libraries are here to stay, maybe not in the same way as quiet echoing halls of for researchers, but as community centers for everyone.  And do yourself a favor, if you haven’t visited your local library recently, I think you might be pleasantly surprised by how much the library has to offer!

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