Gutenberg in reverse?

So sorry it’s been so long, but I’ve been busy in a combination of studying for my two college courses and fulfilling my civic duty to file tax forms so I can continue to receive student aid. Classes started just three weeks ago. The two courses are 2-Dimensional Design and Western Civilization to Modern Times.

I’m finding the former class is challenging my views of space and the latter my perspective on current events. Of the two, I think the latter’s also more useful in the context of this blog.

Interestingly, we started class by reviewing the changes in Europe during the Renaissance. In at least one class, Gutenberg’s bible was a subject of brief discussion, lumped in with other luminaries and quickly overcome by the importance of Martin Luther, John Calvin and the Holy Roman Empire.

Gutenberg’s contribution to society, the printing press, brought reading down to the more pedestrian classes, spreading literacy and driving the Renaissance forward in many unexpected ways.

That, in part, is why I am shocked (SHOCKED, I tell you) to find that libraries are among the current budget cuts being proposed to government in the upcoming Sequestration.

Let me try to tackle this briefly, because sooner or later I need to go to sleep, but this topic is on my mind and I’ll keep stewing about it until I get it out of my system.

So, let’s see. We’re seeing a huge surge in sales of the Kindle, Nook and other E-readers. Many cell phones and other hand-held devices carry with them the ability to read books and web sites, not just answer calls or surf the web.

Many books are being locked up by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. And with books going out of print every day, libraries running out of space for storage and fewer and fewer archivists hired to preserve volumes, more books are becoming obsolete. No big deal, right? Except for all those people who don’t have computers because they can barely feed themselves or their families.

It’s like the digital revolution for television signals. We assume a digital converter that costs just a few dollars will justify changing to an all digital format, but have resulted in discarded analog televisions. People who can no longer receive television signals unless they have the proper equipment because their old tvs can’t handle digital without modification or replacement. No books, no newspapers, because all the media has become electronic.

And we wonder why the literacy rate isn’t where we think it ought to be. There’s a colossal disconnect, funded by special interest groups who want to sell more televisions and found the market flat. What better way to increase sales than to discard an entire format? The same is happening with books. Movies, too, thanks to Netflix, Hulu and other companies that make it easy for those with the right equipment to watch what they want, when they want it.

But hold up. Wait a sec.

Have you looked at the cost of an internet connection lately? Or the availability of computers in libraries? When the library is open at all, that is. What’s a poor person to do? Subscribe to the newspaper, of course. Right.

Except that print media in general is suffering historically low sales. The big guys are turning increasingly to online delivery and subscription, the poor be damned.

No problem. Kids can get this stuff at school. Right?


Public education is so underfunded, we can’t guarantee all our kids will have access to the text books they need. And that’s just elementary and secondary education. College textbooks have become ridiculously expensive, and they were already overpriced the first time I attended college, back in the mid-80’s.

We are working harder and harder toward a permanent poor. Let the uneducated or hopeless commit crimes because they can’t get ahead any other way, and these people become indentured servants, free or extremely cheap labor. Pretty soon, the only ones who’ll be able to read are the ones who can afford the books.

But isn’t that what Gutenberg was fighting by creating a printing press in the first place? So we step centuries back in enlightenment while the current bourgeoisie keep raising prices in the interest of “Free Market Expansion” and we’re supposed to thank them for the privilege.

Something is rotten. It’s the smell of hypocrisy. And the revolution everyone is so worried about that they all need their precious semi-automatic multi-round magazines isn’t the government coming to get them. It’s that permanent underclass. Folks are remembering the race riots of the 1960’s.  That’s why they’re so afraid.

How do we fix the problem?

By following our own Constitution and avoiding a country split by the haves and have-nots.

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

If we do these things in the spirit for which the Constitution was intended, I think we will discover ourselves to be fulfilling the dream Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke about, and we can be proud of our accomplishments. We’ll race back to the top of the pile in education, forward-thinking progress, fundamental liberty and the pursuit of happiness that our forefathers wanted when they broke from Mother England. We’re not going to get there by supporting Free Market Thugs who think only of their own bottom line, and to hell with anyone else.

This I believe.

2 thoughts on “Gutenberg in reverse?

  1. Hullo B,

    As usual you drive to the heart of the matter and the most important points. Not to minimize those, but I do find US copyright law troublesome. Many of my favorite books are not only out of print but also unavailable as e-books. Just gone, poof!

    But intellectual property law isn’t a new idea. I recall reading that the Church of England had was granted a monopoly on the printing of Bibles in that country. Printers got around that by printing multiple language “polyglot” versions of the Bible as “textbooks.” So the people will find a way.

    But it’s a shame that they have to. Clearly intellectual property law, like most American law, is slanted to protect corporations more than the individual creator.

    And anyway, Sonny Bono? Really?!?!? What self-respecting lawyer could manage to keep a straight face while using the “Sonny Bono” law to prosecute someone who downloaded a book?


    Is it not absurd?

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