The US government is planning on implementing a program that will see $250 million to give kids access to over 10,000 e-book titles. The New York Public library is creating a dedicated app that will allow disadvantaged children to have unfettered access. The program sounds good on paper, but is deeply flawed.
There is currently some large riots happening in Baltimore and President Obama spoke at a library in a poor neighborhood. He said “If we think that we’re just going to send the police to do the dirty work of containing the problems that arise there without, as a nation and as a society, saying, ‘What can we do to change those communities, to help lift up those communities and give those kids opportunity,’ then we’re not going to solve this problem.”
On paper, giving poor kids access to e-books from major publishers and technical documents sounds great. The truth of the matter is that census data indicates that many lower-income households don’t have mobile devices or access to broadband internet. This will result in the vast majority of kids not even getting access or even knowing the program exists.
The winners of the $250 million dollars will be the New York Public Library, which is receiving a large chunk of cash to make the low-income reading app. Publishers who commit to having their titles in the system will likely get large payouts too. Ditto with Firstbook who will do the distribution.
I think this program could have more success if they invested in a hundred thousand older e-readers and loaded fiction, non-fiction and technical documents to help foster a viable career. There is a stark contrast in making content available and actually putting hardware in peoples hands.
Michael Kozlowski has written about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. Newspapers and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times have picked up his articles. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.