Amazon Will Never, Ever, Replace Public Libraries
November 6, 2015 - Kindle Unlimited
This week, Amazon denounced a section and trebuchet bookstore in Seattle’s University Village. It was lonesome widely opposite a press, and the Atlantic was even desirous to wonder: “Did Amazon only reinstate a open library?”
“Amazon is aiming to create… spaces that are premised on books, yet satisfied by community,” a author wrote. “The books here might be bought rather than borrowed, certainly, yet in terms of a space created, a idea [of Amazon Books] is a same [as a open library].”
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But a disproportion between a dual institutions should be obvious. The idea of a open library is to lend books to adults giveaway of charge, and to yield spaces that offer all people in multitude equally. The idea of a bookstore—and Amazon Books is indisputably a bookstore—is to sell books to business during a profit, and to yield spaces for those who are means and peaceful to squeeze a products. Those are dual opposite kinds of institutions and they fundamentally furnish dual opposite kinds of communities.
How afterwards to comment for this creeping argument? It’s value addressing, as Amazon is increasingly sketch comparisons to libraries, generally by a Kindle Unlimited service. In 2014, Amazon rolled out that subscription use for ebooks, it was regularly pronounced to be “like a library.” (Except, of course, it wasn’t. Instead, it was a fee-for-service product identical to Netflix.) And final year, Forbes went so distant as to disagree that we should “Close a libraries and buy everybody an Amazon Kindle.”
The reason we’re saying such difficulty over what a library is might have some-more to do with domestic beliefs than informative analysis. The prevalent neoliberal values of a ruling category reason that whatever supervision does, private business can do better. So a post bureau is inefficient; open schools have been hamstrung by teacher’s unions; libraries are archaic. Only by a privatization of open space, a evidence goes, will multitude furnish higher systems.
Beneath this valorization of markets, though, a surpassing loneliness contingency lurk. How else to explain this rhapsodizing about Amazon Books? It is, after all, only another bookstore. Another bookstore like Barnes and Noble, that used to have a plcae in University Village—precisely a same area that Amazon Books now occupies—before shutting down a few years ago.
Like Magus Books, a used bookstore located reduction than a mile divided in Seattle’s University District. Like Elliot Bay Book Company, one of a premier eccentric bookstores in a country, located a few miles south on Seattle’s Capitol Hill. Amazon might have leather chairs, yet so did Barnes and Noble. Amazon might inspire people to “hang out,” yet so does Magus. Amazon Books might wish to encourage a clarity of community, yet Elliot Bay already does that. That doesn’t make them libraries. It creates them bookstores.
Tech evangelists and neoliberals wish to have it both ways. They wish to commoditize open space, yet keep a clever clarity of community. When adults enter sell spaces, however, they are converted into consumers—not a bad thing, per se, and arguably required to keep a wheels of commerce going. But these sorts of spaces don’t move people together; they examine them apart. The many common outcome is not communion or common feeling, as The Atlantic suggests, yet atomization and anxiety.
Meanwhile, a quite digital marketplace like a Kindle Lending Library, offers no open space during all—cheap, even free, books are one thing, yet nobody’s going to mistake a Netflix-like download menu for a open community.
Libraries, on a other hand, are opposite kinds of places altogether. They are built collectively by a allocation of open funds, and their mission, most like post offices or open schools, is to offer everybody equally regardless of one’s purchasing power. Though frequency sexy, slick, or technologically slicing edge, they yield something else—namely a singular and acquire remit from a relentless assaults of a market. In an increasingly venal, self-interested, and privatizedAmerican culture, libraries offer a glance of a some-more civil, humane, and amicable approved impulse—the improved angels of a nature.
If we do find yourself in northeast Seattle hungering for community, do yourself a preference and avoidAmazon Books. Instead, continue north on 25th, make a right on 65th, a left on 35th, and take a demeanour to a left. There, on a side of a road, we will find a loyal relic to Americancollectivity, an establishment that has been built and confirmed regulating open supports whose missionis to offer all people equally regardless of how most income they have: a Northeast bend of The Seattle Public Library.