Rare Win For Literacy As White House Announces E-book Initiative

Rare Win For Literacy As White House Announces E-book Initiative

The literacy movement saw a rare win on Thursday after years of attack from the copyright monopolies and tech companies who have sought to remove libraries from our culture.

The White House on Thursday launched an initiative encouraging top book publishers to supply $250 million worth of free e-books to low-income students.

The program will partner with local governments and schools across the country. President Obama hopes that the e-book scheme will assist low-income households who significantly trail the national average in both digital connectivity and computer ownership.

At the Anacostia Library in Southeast Washington, D.C., the President announced that libraries and schools in poor communities would be supported by the program and efforts would be made to increase internet access at community libraries.

Publishers involved in the program include Penguin Random House, Bloomsbury, Macmillan, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. This represents substantially all the large industry players, which is something of an achievement.

NGOs, such as book donation charity Firstbook, as well as public libraries will be working together to develop apps to support the digital reading program. Why apps will be needed is unclear. The likely case will be to wrap previously free books inside an elaborate and overly complicated digital layer to make them not free.

The program is part of Obama’s ConnectED plan which seeks to provide broadband internet access to 99% of students across the U.S. by 2018.

“If we're serious about living up to what our country is about, then we have to consider what we can do to provide opportunities in every community, not just when they're on the front page, but every day,” White House National Economic Council’s director Jeff Zients

The White House has also pledged to work alongside local schools and libraries to provide universal access to library cards. Approximately 30 cities and counties have signed up to support this effort, including Baltimore and San Francisco.

The moves come as the role of libraries in the community evolves with technology. Large publishers have used technological advances to eliminate the free renting of books, which has disproportionately affected access to reading material in poorer communities.

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