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Taking a 'wait and see' stance on e-readersPosted Wednesday, January 25, 2012, at 12:40 PM
There sure has been a lot of ink used lately to discuss e-readers, whether you're a Kindle, tablet or ipad, or a Nook fan. Thanks to the gift-giving season, ownership of such devices (in the U.S.) jumped from 10 percent in mid-December to 19 percent in early January -- according to the report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
When something almost doubles in use, that draws attention.
The Pew Internet Report also referred to the "device divide." I'm not sure if they are first to use this term but it's a variation of what libraries call the "digital divide."
As the digitization of everything increases (from job applications to tax documents), libraries have long been bridging the digital divide by providing public-use computers. Computers and Internet access in libraries are in the same vein as books -- they provide what is frequently unavailable (as a purchased item) in many homes.
However, the use of the term "device divide" is misleading in my opinion.
The Pew Internet Report states that while 36 percent of people from families with annual incomes greater than $75,000 have a mobile reading device, only 8 percent of those with incomes below $30,000 report this is the case.
Some libraries are using those numbers as a call to arms -- libraries must jump into the fray and bridge this divide just as we did with computers and internet access.
My argument is that libraries already do that -- the devices are called books. We are not talking about a divide that keeps large groups of people from accessing what a select few can access. If you don't have an e-reader, for whatever reason, you can still check out a book from the library and read it.
What we are talking about is a format change. It's the same thing here -- not having an e-reader doesn't keep you from reading any more than not having a Blueray reader or HDTV keeps you from watching television.
There is no device divide!
A final note about the efforts of libraries to meet e-reader demands -- I have heard from many library directors in Missouri who talk about the strain and/or cutting of the print materials budget because of money they are spending on e-books and e-readers. Listening to the hard choices they are making actually reinforces my wait-and-see approach when it comes to e-readers.
Have a question? Want to make a suggestion? Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Amy Crump is the director of the Marshall Public Library. Adventures in Libraryland is a long-running community service column in The Marshall Democrat-News that offers news about library programs, people and new books and movies.
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