Amazon should open their own bookstores in all local communities. They can replace local libraries and save taxpayers lots of money, while enhancing the value of their stock.”
The arguments against Amazon has a demonstrated track record of hurting publishers and authors (and thus, in the long run, readers). Bookstores are undeniably beneficial to communities–but I see no particular reason why wants me to increase the value of Amazon’s stock instead of allowing me to spend my money at Barnes and Noble, Books a Million, a local indie, or any other bookstore that I believe (or hope) practices better business ethics.‘ position are so obvious that I almost feel patronizing spelling them out. After all, why should I pay Amazon money instead of paying far less to use my local library?
Furthermore,is ignoring the glaringly obvious fact that libraries exist to provide equal access. That is, they provide education and entertainment to people who cannot afford to buy all their books; who cannot afford to buy all their movies or music; who cannot afford to pay for Internet access for streaming, job searching, coursework, etc.; and who cannot afford a car to get onto the highway to the nearest Starbucks to pay for some of the nation’s priciest coffee. The suggestion that we pay Amazon for all the books we currently receive practically free from libraries* forgets that people with lower incomes exist. The suggestion that we can all drive to Starbucks forgets that libraries are typically located in central, easy-to-access areas (often with bus access) while a cafe might not. It also forgets that cafes like people to buy things, whereas libraries allow patrons to enter and stay all day free. Finally, it forgets that people in rural areas might not have a fancy cafe to study in, while they might still have a library.
Besides, cafes do not truly provide the same experience as libraries. Libraries offer patrons free Wi-Fi, computers, and scanners. They also typically provide faxing, copying, and printing services (for a small fee). Library workers will help patrons troubleshoot devices and learn how to navigate the computer. I have seen librarians help patrons learn how to point and click with a mouse, guide them through recovering a lost email password, show them how to use Facebook and Twitter, guide them to job search engines, proofread documents, and print out tax documents. Starbucks only offers Wi-Fi and their employees are not likely to spend 20-30 minutes helping customers download their pay stubs.
In the way, Amazon stores cannot truly replace a library. Of course, there is the major difference that Amazon requires customers to buy books (and encourages them to buy Prime on top of it) while libraries do not. Amazon sales associates, however, are presumably not research specialists. Enter with a question such as, “Do you have a picture book about X topic similar to Y title that I can read aloud to preschoolers” and they may or may not have an answer, preschool story times not being a major part of their business. Fielding inquiries such as “What is an appropriate book to introduce the Holocaust to a fifth grader?” or “What are some repetitive picture books I can read to a day camp?” may also be outside their expertise as sales associates may not often think about how to use their merchandise in various educational settings.
Fortunately, libraries are not as obsolete as Pew Research Center provides the numbers:might have us believe. The people he knows may very well purchase all their books and hang out at Starbucks instead of public libraries. His Twitter profile states he is Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at LIU Post and I can well believe that a number of academics (at least the tenured ones) have enough money to do these things. However, his experience does not necessarily represent the United States as a whole. The
A new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data from fall 2016 finds that 53% of Millennials (those ages 18 to 35 at the time) say they used a library or bookmobile in the previous 12 months. That compares with 45% of Gen Xers, 43% of Baby Boomers and 36% of those in the Silent Generation
The report goes on to say that 46% of adults said they went to the public library in the past 12 months. Those numbers are nothing to sneer at. Nearly half of American adults went to the library. Libraries are alive and well!
It is true that libraries cost taxpayers money–but that is the point. Taxes are a way for the community to combine their purchasing power to fund something that benefits the community as a whole. Currently I pay less than $20 a year in local taxes for my library–under the cost of one book. Since I read about 100 books a year, this is a steal. I would gladly pay much more in taxes if it meant my library could purchase more materials, extend their hours, increase wages for the dedicated staff, and attract bigger programs. As far as I am concerned, the library tax is some of the best use my city makes of my tax dollars. If we do not want to spend taxpayer money on giving equal access to the community, in allowing students to complete their homework, in enabling immigrants to learn a new language, in promoting literacy and STEM among children, and in giving the homeless population a safe/cool/warm place to stay during the day–exactly what should we spend our taxpayer money on?
*Yes, I know that libraries are not technically free because tax dollars fund them. However, since I pay under $20 a year for the library, I can check out one movie or one book and already have saved money. After that, every book I borrow is free to me. Even if I paid $100 a year, I could check out five books or DVDs and then be reading or viewing free. Libraries are a true bargain.
Forbes has removed the article.
“Across the country, if public libraries were to be cut and all funding were to be divided up among Americans, each person would get $36 back, says Richard Auxier, a researcher at the Tax Policy Center think tank.”