Access to knowledge has long been seen as vital to the public interest — literally, in economic parlance, a “public good” — which is why libraries have always been supported through taxes and philanthropy.

Now consider that the eBook completely eliminates both the secondary book market and any control that libraries — i.e. the public — has over the copies of a text it has purchased.

Except under limited circumstances, eBooks cannot be loaned or resold. They cannot be gifted, nor discovered on a trip through the shelves of a friend or the local library. They cannot be re-bound and, unlike all the rediscovered works that literally gave birth to the Renaissance, they will not last for centuries. Indeed, publishers are already limiting the number of times a library can loan out an eBook to 26.

If the transition to eBooks is complete — and with libraries being among the most significant buyers of books, it now seems inevitable — the flexibility of book ownership will be gone forever. Knowledge, in as much as books represent it, will belong to someone else.

Imagine…being stymied…by the lack of an e-reader.

Will E-Books Destroy the Democratizing Effects of Reading?, by Christopher Mims, Technology Review

Above photo from the Diaspora Book Charity website. From their statement:

Books offer inspiration, escapism and open our eyes as children and adults to a world of possibilities.

Now imagine life for a majority of children in Africa. Those fortunate enough to go to school and receive an education have to share a photocopied text book. Popular books that inspire young children in the Western World are neither affordable nor accessible.

We are setting up libraries for educational institutions in Sierra Leone where children can have access to books that will motivate them to learn and to believe in their own future.