Nationalizing Ebooks To Encourage Reading

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If you’re a socialist-hating libertarian, then you might want to skip this post. For the rest of us, it offers a glimpse into the future. Maybe in a decade or two, the United States and other countries will follow Taiwan’s lead.

Taiwan is planning a new pilot program that will encourage the use of ebooks. This article from eBookNewser explains:

The Taiwan Ministry of Education announced last week that it was about to launch a new program to promote eBooks and eReaders. A total of 6 institutions, consisting of 3 universities and 3 public libraries, have joined forces to encourage the use of eBooks.

More importantly, the Taiwanese government is financially supporting this program:

At least 2 of the institutions already have extensive collections, and the government of Taiwan will be contributing NT$3 million to assist those that do not. The NTL currently offers over 10,000 e-books for online reading and the NTNU library has 330 e-books and 700,000 academic online publications.

In the US, a lot of public libraries let you “check out” ebooks to read on your eReader. But as far as I know, there’s no national program to promote such use of digital books. Furthermore, major US publishers are very resistant to the idea of people reading ebooks for free via their local public library.

I’d like to see Taiwan take this great program a step further by helping put eReaders into the hands of those who need them. For the large number of devices they’d be buying, the government could probably get a pretty good bulk discount from their supplier.

Taiwan is taking a huge step in mainstreaming ebooks in their country. The government realizes that technology is bound to change people’s reading habits. In my own experience, and from talking to others, eReaders generally encourage more reading.


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