Leo Benedictus writes in Prospect Magazine about the closing of libraries in England and the rise of e-reading. Salient quote:
The talk of a future in which children cannot access books is also not just wrong, but backwards. E-readers—already available for £52 ($83), and falling—offer an incomparably more convenient way for anyone to find good things. While defending libraries, surely there is also time to promote the fact that, thanks to Project Gutenberg and Google Books, every child in the country can now download virtually any out-of-copyright book for nothing. (Piracy will doubtless do the same for most in-copyright books too, as may digital lending, though this is less cause for celebration.)
He goes on to argue that digital readers will be able to provide children with libraries of their own. I would agree with that notion if libraries were simply book access centers; who wouldn’t want to make it easier for readers to get a hold of books? But libraries operate beyond that capacity. E-readers do not provide the same internet access as current library computer labs; they do not have classes on computer use or other topics; nor do they provide programming for people of all ages.
A library also functions as a place, whether for old men to gather and play chess or teens looking for a safe space to be to do their homework and avoid the dangers of the street. It’s a community focal point, a space preserved for mental and social activity the same way parks are saved for physical activity. An e-reader is a poor substitute for an actual place where these ideas can congregate and be exchanged.
Mr. Benedictus argues that 2011 will be the year that each child will receive their own library through an e-reader. That may be so, but it will be at the loss of the discovery of books next to those titles on the shelf and a place that houses them.
(h/t: The Daily Dish)