For The Record

Submit birth, marriage and obituary records online.

PDF documents on this site require the free Adobe Reader:

Get Adobe Reader

The potential elitism of ebooks

posted by Kate Good on 02/01/10 at 12:27 PM

When I was a kid, my mom regularly packed my sister and me into our red express wagon and pulled us the few blocks downtown to the Lancaster (Pa.) County Public Library. Wandering through the shelves of books that fill that grand brick mansion, we had free rein to stuff our bags with any book that caught our eyes.

I've never lost the excitement and joy that I felt then when I was surrounded by a seemingly endless supply of books. I still can't get enough of words and stories. They have shaped my life and now my career. (I work as assistant publisher for Good Books, a small family-run publishing house, where my job is, simply put, connecting writers and readers.)

Recently, when people learn I work in publishing or love to read, they ask me what I think about ebooks, or electronic books. It's a good question, especially with the recent development of many ereaders, the portable devices used to read ebooks, from Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Nobles' Nook to the iPad launched by Apple last week.

While it's too soon to know if ebooks are the future of publishing, many people hope they are. On the surface, ebooks and ereaders seem like a great idea. What reader wouldn’t want instant access to thousands of books? I would. But I also worry that in our effort to make books more accessible, we could make it more difficult for some people to find and read books.   

My concerns were sparked, in part, by comments made by Sherman Alexie, the writer and poet, who called ereaders "elitist." Alexie said, "Having grown up poor, I'm also highly aware that there's always a massive technology gap between rich and poor kids. Poor kids all over the country don't have access to current textbooks, so will they have access to Kindle" (’s ereader)?

With ereaders running several hundred dollars a pop, Alexie's concerns are legitimate. I'm also reminded of his comments during my still-regular visits to the Lancaster County Public Library. Computer literacy is almost as important as literacy these days, and libraries are stepping in to fill the gap for many people who can't afford a personal computer or the monthly charge for Internet access. At my local library, the towering shelves of books remain, but they've been pushed back to accommodate banks of computers and rows of chairs where people wait for their 15-minute slot of Internet access. 

When I visit the library, I wonder how will we further bridge the technology gap if ebooks are the future? There are few more democratic spots than a library where books and their ideas and stories are unrestricted. For many Americans, libraries have been a great equalizer, a real chance to learn for free. Perhaps more than ever, libraries truly provide an opportunity for a higher education without the steep price of tuition. As Thomas Jefferson said, "A library book ... is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, is their only capital."

But if more books, particularly new books, are suddenly available only as ebooks, how can a library afford to provide their patrons with these resources?

It's easy to believe that I am overstating the potential power and limitations of ebooks. After all, they are a fraction of the books currently bought and sold each day. But not too long ago, we were told that the Internet would only enhance, not threaten our print newspapers and magazines. Sometimes, I worry that we are too eager to embrace technology without considering its shortcomings.

Librarians are some of the wiliest and most resourceful people I know. But with limited budgets and a growing need, they can only do so much. Imagine a world where people must wait in line each day in order to have brief access to ereaders and a few moments with their favorite books.

Does this sound extreme? Perhaps. But without careful thought and consideration, we could quickly limit the easy access many people have to the world of words, ideas, and imagination currently available to anyone who opens a book. If ebooks and ereaders are our future, we must push for them to become affordable and available to anyone who is interested in reading a book. 

Good_kate Kate Good lives in Lancaster City, Pa.  She is a member of Blossom Hill Mennonite Church, Lancaster. She is assistant publisher at Good Books.

Reader Comments

Add Comments
  • Posted by Gerald at Monday, February 01, 2010 at 04:45 PM

    Good word, Kate. The opportunity cost of our multiple devices and subscription services may be inversely related to the amount of time we have for actual reading.

  • Posted by pastoroffishing at Tuesday, February 02, 2010 at 03:14 PM

    You bring up a very interesting thought on the cost effectiveness of eReaders. I personally am a pastor and have a limited income. This is why I invested in a Kindle. The cost savings and library toting ability I have is yes there is the power. The kindle is available as a PC reader. The other question comes if publishers would move towards the open standards that exist for publishing documents. Even now as I type I am thankful for the electronic medium in which this blog was given to me. It has started a whole new world of ministry to use not only my blog, but facebook,twitter, email, etc... We should be looking how to utilize lower tech solutions for high tech needs within our world. Also what will it look like in the future when a library becomes an electronic warehouse?

  • Posted by ericrumsey at Tuesday, February 23, 2010 at 12:14 PM

    Thanks for the thoughtful words, Kate. I think the idea that eBooks are elitist is rather a US/European-centric view. For people in the tropical world, especially Africa, I’d guess that it’s pretty much a question of digital reading or no reading, in the near future. See my blog article on the travails of paper-book-reading in India: See also a recent NY Times editorial on how mobile devices have revolutionized life in the two-thirds world: --Eric

  • Posted by mpowell at Monday, March 01, 2010 at 10:19 AM

    This is a little ridiculous. I attend a state school in California and there are quite a few lower income students there. They have iPhones, XBoxes, Playstations and all sorts of technology that I am far too conservative to spend my money on. I see people on public transit using Kindles. If books go the way of magazines and end up mostly digital (something I have doubts about), that will, if anything, broaden the scope of book access. All modern jobs and schools come with an unspoken requirement to use the internet.

  • Posted by insidethebuggy at Monday, May 23, 2011 at 07:07 PM

    Here's the way I see it. Print, much like anything that becomes antiquated, finds itself a niche market that never totally dies but has a corner to itself. People naturally get attached to things and resist change. We remember the good times but forget that bad. I personally enjoy doing a keyword search in a digital PDF copy of a book rather than flipping through pages. Having said that, the graphic designer in me buys books on a regular basis because I love the tactile experience. I run a Mennonite Blog just to be a part of the new digital world of literature but am definitely not afraid to pick up a paper book. Heck, I even use books to write some of my posts.

  • Posted by florxx at Tuesday, May 07, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    eBooks today is very common, as technology evolves and so as books.You can download it online, it's fast and easy. 7 Urgency Apps for iPhone and Android

  • Posted by louboanti at Tuesday, May 21, 2013 at 12:46 AM

    cheap adidas by jeremy scott
    bestjeremy scott shoes
    shop jeremy scott wings
    salejeremy scott store
    welcome to
    cheap jeremy scott x adidas
    cheap jeremy scott shoes
    cheap jeremy scott adidas
    cheap js wings
    cheap adidas jeremy scott
    cheap jeremy scott x adidas
    best adidas jeremy scott
    shop jeremy scott shoes
    sale jeremy scott wings

    now jeremy scott shop online
    welcome to
    cheap jeremy scott adidas
    best jeremy scott sneakers
    shop jeremy scott shoes
    sale adidas jeremy scott
    now js wings online
    welcome to
    cheap jeremy scott x adidas
    cheap jeremy scott shoes
    shop jeremy scott wings
    salejeremy scott store
    buy new balance outlet for cheap online
    buy new balance online for cheap online
    sale new balance running shoes with free shipping
    sale new balance shoes with free shipping

    shop boys new balance with free shipping
    shop new balance shoes with free shipping
    welcome to

  • Posted by sullivan at Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 07:18 AM

    While you're skimming the electronic bookshelves of an online book shop, you may be enticed to purchasing an easier evaluated e book in excess of a traditional one. hen you purchase either form however, its vital to understand that there are positive focal points and hindrances of both.Regards.
    what cause snoring

  • Posted by WilsonSmith at Friday, August 30, 2013 at 08:04 AM

    Being a author and a writer, I think he information that relates to the ebooks is supreme for me.
    Print book

  • Posted by pitbulllopez77 at Friday, November 15, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Wandering through the shelves of books that fill that grand brick mansion, we had free rein to stuff our bags with any book that caught our eyes.
    buy youtube views cheap

  • Posted by jimmyjacks at Saturday, November 16, 2013 at 03:03 AM

    My friend mentioned to me your blog, so I thought I’d read it for myself. Very interesting insights, will be back for more!

  • Posted by jimmyjacks at Monday, November 18, 2013 at 04:36 AM

    I love the blog. Great post. It is very true, people must learn how to learn before they can learn. lol i know it sounds funny but its very true. . .sprzęt wędkarski

  • Posted by jimmyjacks at Tuesday, November 26, 2013 at 02:27 AM

    I must say, I thought this was a pretty interesting read when it comes to this topic. Liked the material. . .
    Furniture removals

  • Posted by justinben at Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 06:58 AM

    I usually don't comment on blogs but this blog inspired me to make one compliment as I know it's not enough for the meaningful context in your writing as one could understand it easily. Thanks for sharing.
    Buy Real Instagram Followers

  • Posted by kermit at Sunday, January 12, 2014 at 09:21 PM

    I agree with the author. Ereaders need to be available to check-out just like a book. Well said. likes here

  • Posted by wendylowhy at Sunday, February 02, 2014 at 01:25 AM

    this is one of the best articles on this website. definitely excellent information and hope to read more. awesome. this is the information i have been searching. Ecopolitan Ecopolitan Executive Condominium Tembusu Tembusu Condo Tembusu Kovan Vue 8 Sea Horizon Sea Horizon Executive Condominium Rivertrees Rivertrees Residences Rivertrees Condo Rivertrees Condominium Rivertrees Residences Fernvale Rivertrees Fernvale Ladies Bags Ladies Bag Ladies Handbags Designer Bags Handbags Shoulder Bag Designer Handbags Thanks for sharing information that is actually helpful

  • Posted by Buy youtube views online at Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 06:00 AM

    This article have many informations about youtube views. From this post, I got knowledge of the subject about ebook. It was very useful for me to explore my knowledge to ebooks.

  • Posted by Buy youtube views online at Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 06:02 AM

    This post is fantastic. Keep up the good work, Some of this few posts on this web site and I conceive that your blog is very interesting. This post helpful to me for know the ebook. by buy youtube views

  • Posted by frank090 at Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 01:55 PM

    This is a very good read for me, Must concede that you are on the list of best blogger I ever discovered. Thanks for posting this great article.Remarkable post and thanks for sharing. Some stuff in here I have not considered about before. BTW If You Want Youtube Subscribers. Use Buy Youtube Subscribers Service or the another service is Buy Youtube Likes.

  • Posted by wendylowhy at Monday, April 28, 2014 at 09:13 AM

    great article for reading. keep blogging the good stuff. Bags | Bag | handbags | handbag | Ladies bags | Shoulder bags | Pollen & Bleu | Pollen&Bleu | Pollen and Bleu | pollen bleu | pollen & Bleu residences | pollen & Bleu singapore | farrer drive condo | coco palms | coco palm | coco palms condo | coco palm condo | coco palms pasir ris | pasir ris condo | the rise @ oxley | the rise@oxley | the rise @ oxley residences | the rise at oxley | the rise at oxley residences | oxley rise residences | oxley rise condo | rise @ oxley | rise at oxley Thanks for sharing information that is actually helpful

  • Posted by cibipublicom at Saturday, May 03, 2014 at 05:29 AM

    Thanks combination of suitable and useful information and well-written sentences that will certainly entice your sense.There are so multiple comments here that are really entertaining and conducive to me thanks for sharing a link especially for sharing this blog. productie publicitara bucuresti

  • Posted by warrenstraw222 at Friday, May 23, 2014 at 05:08 AM

    The curve of the wing to Fake Watches the volume of the body, of the shape of the throat to the subtle associations of Fake Rolex colours yellow and blue feathers, nothing has been forgotten to make this model a real painting in Replica omega watches three dimensions, welcoming the beauty of nature and the freedom of these fascinating birds. The curve of the Sapphire, specially made, dome-shaped reinforces the optical illusion of this scene.

  • Posted by daninchirieri at Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 04:07 PM

    It is a great website. The Design looks very good. Please visit casete luminoase bucuresti Keep working like that!

  • Posted by daninchirieri at Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 04:12 PM

    This is really a nice and informative, containing all information and also has a great impact on the new technology. Please visit creare site Thanks for sharing it!

  • Posted by daninchirieri at Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 04:55 PM

    I am very much pleased with the contents you have mentioned. I wanted to thank you for this great article. Please visit comanda pizza craiova

  • Posted by daninchirieri at Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 06:03 PM

    There are a lot of blogs and articles out there on this topic, but you have acquired another side of the subject. This is reliable content thank you for sharing it corturi evenimente craiova

  • Posted by Meela at Friday, July 18, 2014 at 01:50 AM

    I'm now not sure the place you are getting your information, but good topic. I must spend a while finding out more or understanding more. Thank you for fantastic information I used to be searching for this info for my mission. Judi Bola Online Agen Sbobet

  • Posted by maryfernando at Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 03:21 AM

    Being a writer and an author, I think he data that identifies with the electronicbook is preeminent for me.
    Expert Assignment Writers

  • Posted by liumeili at Monday, September 01, 2014 at 05:03 AM

    エミリオプッチ Emilio Pucciして今シーズン以降のためにあなたの外観に新しい要素を追加すミュウミュウ MIUMIU青いショルダーバッグを選択するように失敗します。シグネチャーロゴレタリングがチェックに文を保持します。私たちは、ミュウミュウのショルダーバッグの豊富な紫色を崇拝し、ひだマルベリー MULBERRYレザーは、単にきれいな仕上がりに追加されます。締結上のクリスタル装飾は、遊び心女性らしさのちょうど右の量と、それがさらにcovetableなります。マイケルコース MICHAEL KORSのミュウミュウのブランドジャガードアームカバーはパステルイエローのサテンのトリムで飾ら金の糸と織り台湾シリーズを、示している。これは、構築されたファスナーポケットやポーチはあなたの持ち物の秩序あるストレージ小片とすることができるであり、また、バリー BALLY取り外し可能なショルダーストラップの配置は、ショルダーバッグとして使用します。このパッケージのまばゆいは、もはや余分な目を引くのジュエリーを着用する必要はありません。アーニャハインドマーチ、このエレガントな「ジョージア」のクラッチ自宅のインテリアに触発タッセルで飾らデヴォンシャー公爵夫人という18世紀の社交界の美しさに、手でそれぞれのデザインは、バレンシアガ BALENCIAGA洗練8時間を要した。金でこのバッグは、複数のカードスロットやポケットにあなたのバーバリー BURBERRY 携帯電話用のジッパーとレザーテクスチャーポールスミス PAUL SMITH.