Anthony W. Marx, head of the New York Public Library, in a New York Times op-ed article today praises the Big Six (not the Original Six - that's hockey) book publishers for increasing the library's access to e-books. Yet Marx's piece makes clear that the publishers have placed severe restrictions on e-book circulation.
Marx, in another context under fire for plans to renovate the library's Fifth Avenue crown jewel, sees e-books as the future. My take-away is that limits on e-book circulation widen the "digital divide" between those who can buy the newest devices and e-information and those who can't. At least Marx is consistent - his plans to rip up the hallowed Fifth Avenue library reading room and create some kind of Internet cafe gave a collective shudder to the intellectual class horrified that the plan would be taking democracy too far, block that cappuccino!
Meanwhile, the irrepressible Tom Friedman, in his adjacent column, comes up with another of his glib concepts. Nowadays, it's a "401 (k) world," says Mr. Tom, meaning that unlike in the old pension-Social Security world, workers have to fend for themselves and acquire ever more rarified skills to survive in the "hyper-connected" world. Mr. Tom finds "a lot of this scary," although it can be presumed that his 401 ( k) looks pretty good. It's cold out there for a pimp, but Mr. Tom can charge nearly $1,000 a head to attend his seminar on this scary, scary hyper-connected world.
As Marx says, - Anthony, not Karl - more and more people are using the library for Internet access, to check e-mail and increase those skills Friedman discusses. Yet library funding goes down and the profit-hungry publishers place limits on e-books.
After all of this, I felt a bit queasy to find on the business page that cash-heavy Apple, the leading maker of smart phones and tablets for easy e-book enlightenment, is issuing millions in bonds, essentially acquiring more cash by raising debt. Apple reportedly will use some of that money for dividends to shareholders. If only I had bought Apple Stock, my 401 (k) would look much brighter and I could afford to acquire whatever skills Mr. Tom somewhat murkily says I will need for the scary 401 (k) world. I might even be able to attend one of his seminars, or figure out how to download e-books from the library to my Apple-made I-Pad. Marx says many folks don't even know they can download e-books from the library. I tried to download some to my Nook, but all the books I wanted had a long waiting time, as admittedly is the situation with old fashioned paper books. Marx's article makes clear why.
Perhaps we could go back to that other Marx and say "workers of the world unite" but that boat has apparently already sunk in our 401 (k) world. Groucho Marx might give us a bit of insight too; I'm sure his clips can be found on You Tube.
If the Big Six makes you dizzy, there's always the Original Six: all of them are in the NHL playoffs for the first time in ages. The best bet for the Stanley Cup, an ESPN analyst says, are Pittsburgh and Chicago, two cities that make me nostalgic for the old non-hyper-connected world.