The downloading of music and movies onto digital devices and of books onto tablets (didn’t the Romans use those?) may superficially seem to allow everybody the opportunity of exposure to a far more expansive library of sound, film and literature but I fear that, inevitably, only the most popular material will be made available and so, gradually, everything else will disappear. Some may protest that it will open niche items to a wider public audience – and I’d love to believe that – but, equally, it may lead to only the most commercially viable items being produced or stored because nothing else will be truly visible anymore.
Moreover, handing the custodianship of this digital library over to corporate USA strikes me as a pretty poor idea, given their powerful religious right’s propensity for attempting to ban anything with content which they feel might promote independent thought or the seeds of sedition amongst the masses. This makes for an interesting and potentially disturbing perspective.
As the libraries close and book vendors go out of business, a process which we’re witnessing already, eventually the only access to the written word may be through electronic media and then censorship will be very easy to impose, as will keeping a detailed history of precisely who has been reading what. Books from The Catcher in the Rye in the 1950s to Harry Potter in the early 2000s have been burnt by fundamentalists – and Amazon even had the sinister foresight to call their reader Kindle. You can already almost feel the flames of righteousness beginning to flicker.