Friday, March 18, 2011

Recreating an old class divide?

I was reading an article over at Reuters today talking about the rise of electronic books (ebooks). The writer expresses concern about this (relatively) new technology.
The rapid rise of e-books could lead to a "reading divide" as those unable to afford the new technology are left behind, even as U.S. reading and writing skills decline still further.
What Elaine speaks of is not a new phenomenon. (I'm not implying that she thinks it is mind you.) Take medieval Europe for example.

In those times there was usually clear separation between people of the upper/ruling classes who had access to reading material and those of the working/lower classes that did not. I personally think a big part of this divide was due to money.

You see scholars (and doctors, inventor, etc...) of that day needed money in order to perform their research and experiments. How does one get access to money? Buddy up with the people that have it. And along with that money comes fame and reputation. So by the time the smoke clears you have scholars and other learned people spending their efforts trying to rub elbows with the upper/ruling classes and not bothering with the working/lower classes. Guess who gets access to the latest medical techniques? Who has access to an education? And who has access to the latest literature?

Mind you I think it might be a bit premature to say that this is happening already but considering how big and bad this divide was in those times it might be worth keeping in mind.

6 comments:

April said...

I don't know. The only expensive part is the hardware. E-books are way cheaper than paper books, aren't they? I have a feeling that Kindles and other e-readers will go way down in price soon, too. Think about it: how many legitimately broke people do you know with a smart phone, iPod, car, etc.? I think once the hardware is around $100 or less, people will find a way, no matter where they fall economically.

Danny said...

E-books are way cheaper than paper books, aren't they?
That actually varies from book to book. Usually you are saving a few dollars but there cases in which you save (and even a few rare cases in which you pay even more for ebook than paper book).

Chances are you're right but there's one other thing to bear in mind. Most of those e readers need either wifi or 3G access in order to download books (well not quite but to make it a whole lot easier than downloading to your pc then transferring over to your e reader).

I just think its worth keeping in mind for at least the "those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it".

Eagle33 said...

I'm a little mixed on the e-books trend.

Yes, they're very convenient for limiting the amount of books you'd end up carrying should the urge to read strike wherever you go.

But I don't find anything quaint about reading from a dingy little electronic screen compared to the feel of the book in your hands, the turning of a page, and the organic ink locked in embrace with the paper. Not to mention the artistic hardcovers.

Last thing I want is for e-books to replace books altogether. If prices should go down and people find them cheaper than the real thing, I dread this could be possible.

Then again, didn't they say the same thing when music went digital on the internet?

Danny said...

But I don't find anything quaint about reading from a dingy little electronic screen compared to the feel of the book in your hands, the turning of a page, and the organic ink locked in embrace with the paper. Not to mention the artistic hardcovers.
Yes there are some things that just can't be put on an electronic screen. A few days ago I was talking about technical books (computer programming stuff) and I did say that I would never buy a technical book in electronic format because I want to be able to flip back and forth at will and I just can't do that with my Nook. This plus what you say about artistic covers I think will keep paper books alive for a long time.

Then again, didn't they say the same thing when music went digital on the internet?
Truth be told the only complaining I heard about music going digital was from record labels bitching that about not keeping total control over music distribution.

Eagle33 said...

Actually, Danny, I meant to clarify with the music going digital.

When Ipods and Itunes started appearing and you could just download songs then listen whenever you like instead of buying a CD. Again, eliminates the inconvenience of carrying a pack full of CDs when you want to listen on the go.

The same argument can be had for CDs and even Vinyl. There's nothing to duplicate the artistic lure of a good album cover and CD cover with llyrical booklet sometimes containing snippets of statements from the band/singer and exclusive artwork/photos.

Amanda said...

As long as their are libraries, I don't think that ereaders are going to cause a great divide.

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