Forbes magazine’s self-description is “a leading source for reliable business news and financial information.” Recently Forbes posted online – to immediately remove a short time later – an Op-Ed piece expressing the view Amazon – the corporate conglomerate – should replace local libraries to save taxpayers’ money. To be consistent, Amazon website provides, “online shopping from the earth’s biggest selection of books, magazines, music, DVDs, videos, electronics, computers, software, apparel & accessories, shoes.,…”
After reading about Forbes’ Op-Ed, I wondered to myself and then complained out loud whether the absence of brick and mortar stores prevented Amazon from replacing libraries. I am sure the absence of buildings is not what the author was addressing.
The position is not whether Amazon will let me/she/he/others escape from the heat, get a drink of water and read the newspaper. I am sure that is not the author’s concerns.
Will Amazon – the on-line retailer – provide access to me/we/us to their computers – for free – to research subject matters the corporate fathers/mothers may not agree with us seeing and then defend our rights to the highest courts in the land, without apology, because our rights are their rights. The American Library Association does and continues to do so. Will Amazon do so?
How many library science majors does Amazon hire? I bet libraries hire more?
Wikipedia describes Jeffrey Preston Bezos as an American technology entrepreneur, investor, philanthropist, and the founder, chairman and chief executive of Amazon. Recent reporting identified Bezos as the owner of the Washington Post newspaper. Does this connection mean that during any of our next trips to Washington we can sit in the aisles, roll about on the floor and laugh to ourselves at the novelists’ harrowing, funny, outrageous, stories, while the reporters continue to ply their trade, stepping over and around our bodies? Surely you jest!
Can I, will I, will they allow me/you/they – no matter my/yours/their economic status, race, creed, or color – to enter the corporate environs and participate in free community meetings, self-help programs, or relieve ourselves, wash off, escapes the hostilities of the outside world for a brief moment. Being homeless doesn’t mean one loses ones’ sense of adventure, quest for knowledge, intellect. Does it? Does it have to? You don’t believe they are worthless do you?
Protecting history, educating us, allowing us to educate ourselves while climbing Mount McKinley for free, part of our collective gift to humankind, ourselves; this seems like the stated mission of corporate America. Right…? … Maybe…? … Perhaps I am overreacting, as I am wont to do.
Maybe privatizing the public libraries will be as successful as the privatization of roads; solving traffic problems, making a class of people, and obscure corporate entities wealthy while toll booths continue to litter the landscape. The bold attempt to privatize the interstate highway system continues as we speak. I am sure this attempt has been the subject of opinion writers before they made their move, putting in place the first toll-booths.
Henry Ford understood the power of making money off the masses. His proposal was to make an automobile everyone could afford, the Model T. Ford’s vision worked, absolutely it worked.
Sam Walton wasn’t the first retailer who peddled his wares to the masses. Walton sold cheaper, concentrated his expansion to small towns, before moving to the cities. At some point in time Walton played to our patriotism, wrapping his products in the American flag. This marketing gimmick worked. Sure, others later revealed Walton was importing the products. He ordered the flags and false labels of origin placed in the product by the manufacturers before shipping. The world continued to turn. We continued to watch his/his families’/Walmart’s wealth and dominance explode. Turning on our long running soap operas, remembering we forget to purchase the next greatest thing at the store, while the world continues to turn. Of course, other retailers continue to go out of business, replaced by a more profitable entity which continued to buy and sell in a scale previously unknown in the history of retailing. Maybe, I worry too much.
The corporate landscape is replete with Forbes’ mythical Hall of Fame, women and men of vision, whose dreams, vision and subsequent wealth have become legendary. Corporate fields of dreams they are indeed.
This musing is not designed to debate the virtues or non-virtues of capitalism. I do not muse to express a view Forbes’ opinion shapers will never get their wish – they may well reshape our vision and create a world where all books become digitize, available for viewing and purchasing online, allowing say, an Amazon, to replace public libraries. A world I have a hard-time envisioning. Perhaps…maybe … creating a system where those without online access are permitted access with something as simple as a Lotto ticket purchase? Perhaps…maybe… two tickets will permit the purchaser to five minutes of access to the American Library System’s book collection. Ahem – well, not the American Library System – an Amazon, Google/Alphabet, Microsoft digitized version of Books-in-Print. I am sure the new system will not have a check out system. I am sure they will give us an embedded membership card, permitting them to track our every movement.
Silence would be the prevailing noise when the issue of privacy comes up. They will impose a “be nice to others policy”, while ignoring our questions about the absence of community forums, the ability to exchange ideas and values, or even to soar as high as the mountains, as low as the valleys. I can see the corporate branding, paying the Jacksons to sing us a lullaby. “It is easy as 1-2-3; Or simple as Do-Re-Me.”
I can’t express shock at Forbes’ view – no, no, no – Forbes has expressed the same view before. Seems to me someone sees a profit opportunity in privatizing some of public libraries’ functions. Maybe the opinion writers are setting the foundation for creating business entities/opportunities for this and the next generation of visionaries (if visionary is the right word). Forbes’ posting/non-posting is designed to get us to start thinking about what the future will look like. Forbes’ proposed world – ridding the world of those Library Science graduates, those lover of books and protectors our/their freedoms. Off with their heads indeed seems to be the intent of the posting.
Corporate America seems to believe public libraries have deviated far and wide in their persistent efforts to make sure our histories, books and ideas survive in the many variations of the world we face in the often-times hostile, changing world outside of public library. If we are honest, we would admit they’re right, seems they understand the persistent belligerence of those Library Science majors and the reprieve they provide to the public on public dollars. They are wrong in all other respects.