Let’s Call It Elitist

Posted on March 8, 2010

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I saw a writer in another blog (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/karin-slaughter/will-ebooks-create-an-eli_b_471677.html) make the charge that ebooks will create an elite class of readers. If books are all ebooks, and only the rich can afford the ereaders…

My initial reaction was of the knee-jerk kind: “Aha! Another print traditionalist waving the red flag of elitism in defense of print.”

First off, I love print. Worked with it all my life. And print works for me, too. Next, I love ebooks, too. Been working with PCs since 1983. Couldn’t live without ‘em. Last, on the one hand, I do agree: ebooks (or, more properly, their high-priced ereaders) right now are the playthings of those who have at least several Ben Franklins to throw around. Not quite the must-have possession in this slide from recession to depression.

But, on the other hand, ebooks (and, eventually, their ereaders) have the potential to make book-reading even more pervasive and democratic. Did digitizing music suddenly disenfranchise those less well-off from music? I don’t think so. You don’t have to buy the pricier iPods; there are cheaper MP3 players on the market. And the cost of the music itself over the last 15 years has decreased (if adjusted for inflation).

As the demand grows for ereaders, their price will decrease since the manufacturers will have recouped their R&D and manufacturing tooling costs. And that demand will also provide incentives for cheaper competition. Does anyone remember 60-odd years ago when the first television sets were marketed? They were only the playthings of the idle rich, out of reach of even the dreams of the middle class. But in ten years, everything changed: Televisions were the way of life for the middle class and altered the course of politics (think Kennedy-Nixon debates). And now? Who doesn’t have a TV? (Only those with sense to voluntarily opt out of mass media frenzy.)

So, let the well-off have their toy ereaders. The more they spend, eventually the prices will fall. Only an elitist would think that only the rich need information and content. Everyone needs information and content (not to mention entertainment) and every person who plunks down money for an ereader and ebooks now makes it possible for maybe ten or more people to be able to do so not too far down the line. A true elitist would try to get you to stop buying them now in the name of democratization…

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Posted in: ebooks