The Work

Radical Monday

These days, this sort of picture is inspiring me most.

Information and poverty are tightly linked. Anyone who doesn’t think so is delusional. The OLPC project is so phenomenally radical that it’s no wonder in this economy of scarcity, many people have never heard of it. The more kids from impoverished areas have access to information – books, data, education – the more they’ll be able to figure out why they are poor and others are not.

Throughout history there have been enormous efforts to keep certain swaths of a population from finding out too much.

In his remedial writing classes at BMCC, Bernardo teaches the work of Jonathan Kozol to his students – many of whom come out of the very environment Kozol is writing about. The students come out of Bernardo’s classes well aware of how difficult it is to crawl out of the dire circumstances their families are in. And how essential it is that they must.

Libraries, of course, are a critical component to these movements. Historically libraries have served as a portal to knowledge and information for those who cannot afford to purchase it. With increasing globalization – outsourcing to other countries, interactions with other cultures – coupled with increasing austerity measures, libraries have a huge role to play in the education (and skill acquisition) of large sectors of…well, of the world. Yeah, the whole world.

I think about this sort of thing whenever I see articles like this. Some might argue that not selling ebooks into libraries, or selling with extreme restrictions, is strictly business, that the publishers in question are just trying to preserve a business model.

And that’s fine, but what if preservation of that business model prevents you from being an effective publisher?

A publisher’s mission is to disseminate. If the logical extension of your business model results in non-dissemination…

And ultimately, the information is not getting out to folks who could really benefit from it.

I applaud the experimentation that Random House and HarperCollins are doing. Their restrictions are still too great…but at least they are participating; at least they are trying. They’re not cutting off their ebook noses to spite their faces and not selling into libraries at all.

But we certainly have a ways to go, don’t we?

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