In an online article on Wired, Art Brodsky decries another issue concerning e-books; they contribute to the digital divide. He cites the disparity of e-book pricing for regular consumers and libraries as indicative of the problem. This cost issue limits the ability of libraries to buy and lend e-books, and therefore hinders patron access. He asserts that because of the pricing differences, the only entities that see a profit are the “big e-tailers.” This is certainly a complex issue that is still evolving. I am no expert, and enjoy e-book reading, but here is a perspective on the market that I have not considered before.
On the face of his argument, I agree that the e-book prices set for libraries sounds pretty unreasonable. As a layperson on this issue I fail to see how something that lives on an electronic device (and is almost indestructible) needs to be limited to only 10 uses, or “check-outs.” Certainly I understand companies’ desire for profit, but the current model just seems wasteful. If libraries cannot afford to keep re-purchasing e-books, that does create a lack of options for patrons. (One can get free e-books from Project Gutenberg as detailed in my previous post, but it requires a little tech know-how and computer access). Though not as sophisticated a point, I would say another glaring issue is the price of the e-readers themselves, which can contribute to the digital divide. Although there are lower cost options like the base, $69 Kindle, many devices are still over $100. Even to me, that’s a lot of money. As to e-reader technology, it is not inherently intuitive and not everyone can learn to use it easily. Brodsky also feels we should stop calling e-books “e-books,” as we don’t really own them but “lease” them, and cannot do with them what we can do with print books. As to this point, I’m not sure. I feel as though I own my e-books, but I realize lending them to friends is more complicated. This just shows that while e-books are unique, fun, and convenient, print books still have a place in our world, despite what the experts say. For many folks, they remain the preferred, low to no cost reading option. Or, they are the only option.
 Art Brodsky, “The Abomination of Ebooks: They Price People out of Reading,” Wired, October 10, 13, http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/10/how-ebook-pricing-hurts-us-in-more-ways-than-you-think/ .