Some traditionalists might question the need for TeleRead for the elderly, sick and others who have difficulty going out to borrow books. Why? Because the money instead could be going for more paper books. Still, that is like a 19th-century British bureaucrat's reaction to the telephone; why bother when England had enough messenger boys? One glory of TeleRead is that it would vastly increase the choices of books for the immobile elderly and other disabled people while doing the same for the able-bodied young. Everyone could browse and search the "stacks" at will and "see" (literally or via adaptive technology) the actual text rather than relying on mere catalogues. Besides, TeleRead would hardly replace all paper books overnight. No, we aren't suggesting that you stop donating money to libraries to buy paper books--just the opposite. We simply need to look ahead and understand the need for the electronic variety.
The issue of e-books for the elderly is especially germane, given the tens of millions of boomers who in the next several decades may have trouble driving at night--or lose their mobility in more serious ways or suffer other complications. What about other complications from fading eyesight, for example? E-book readers, with their ability to enlarge type, could be especially helpful. Friendly reminder to politicians: The elderly are more likely to vote than other citizens. As more and more of them accustom themselves to online life--aided by the powerful AARP--there will be some rather pragmatic arguments for increasing the range of library services available through the Net. Also, consider a study of nuns that showed that Alzheimer's disease was less of a problem among the women who had kept themselves mentally active. Just as the more perceptive of the elderly voters recognize the need for adequate money for education--not waste but enough--our younger citizens should recognize the positives of stretching the minds of their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Beyond the political reasons, a well-stocked national digial library would be The Right Thing, a way to contribute to The Quality of Life of the elderly.