image Um, isn’t this the electronic era when you can enjoy YouTube and video games from home? So why not e-books?

May I strongly object to at least one aspect of the proposed Google Book Search settlement, which lets libraries offer just one terminal per library building for access to various books?

How backwards—not just the one terminal limit but also the whole notion of linking access to your presence inside a library! Educators will tell you that no small amount of learning happens at home. isn’t that one of the keystones of the One Laptop Per Child initiative (photo)? Not to mention the intergenerational possibilities! Let children, parents and grandparents read and learn together, encouraged by the right educational approaches.

Bring the hardware home, too—so people can enjoy E in style

While allowing for generous library access, then, America should think about promoting the use of e-book-fit computers at home. TeleRead, anyone? Such a federal program could allow not just for hardware but also content and integration with school curricula and libraries in general. The same machines could be used for applications such as tax forms and e-commerce and health-related paperwork, a way to help cost-justify them. And many hardware vendors could participate with machines meeting commonly accepted technical standards.

Fair pay for content providers

I know: writers and publishers need to be paid. Let the program allow for that, as well as for the special needs of low-income people. And if Google and Amazon and OverDrive and the rest want to be contractors, that’s fine by me if they can provide efficient service.

Shouldn’t TeleRead be something for the next president to consider, rather than just dwelling on the broadband issue alone? Broadband isn’t enough; how about content? The Google settlement is just another reminder of its importance.

Related: Washington Post op-ed and U.S. News & World Report column on TeleRead.

A reminder: I am a very small shareholder in Google.


  1. The one terminal for libraries stinks. However, it is a pretty standard academic library or database vendor practice. The way this is set up is that you will only be able to view these e-books is in a library and they probably won’t be downloadable. It’s counterinuitive to how e-books work and more in line with how academic research works.

  2. Exactly, Jeff. Let’s hope that policymakers understand the nuances here. We’re really talking about horrible discrimination against the poor in many casess.

    As I recall, the time limit for computer access at my local library is one hour. Imagine if you’re a kid doing homework, especially if you’re trying to read a whole e-book. I realize that not all library systems are this horrible. Still, home access is the way to go as one option—I want there to be generous library access, too! And I want these services available to the middle class as well, at least within reason. Otherwise public libraries will be like urban schools.

    Publishers should view librarians as friends who can help grow the book market (yep, I know: dream on, in many cases). And of course they could benefit in other ways. For example, there should be provisions for fair compensation for writers and publishers. We’re talking about tax money and a public-private solution, not just a Google one alone. What’s more, I want other info providers involved rather than merely Google and friends.


  3. Forcing an individual to travel to a library to access an electronic resource by sitting at a local computer terminal is absurd. But it is happening today as Jeff Scott indicates above. When I wanted to access the JSTOR archives I was not able to use the database remotely from my home computer. Nor was I able to use a local public library branch. Instead I was required to drive to a regional University library. The parking at the library is based on a permit that must be purchased.

    The database I wished to access was created by a non-profit organization with the help of philanthropies like the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Here is a description:

    Today, the JSTOR archives include scholarship published in over one thousand of the highest-quality academic journals across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, as well as monographs and other materials valuable for academic work.

    Many of the publishers are non-profits. Much of the research was supported with tax-dollars. Some of the digitized material is old enough to be in the public domain. Why is this information locked up? Why is access limited in such an irrational manner?

The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail