Ebooks, pbooks, and libraries are hardly in the center of Donald Trump’s radar, but I can’t help but wonder what’s ahead. Among my first thoughts:
1. If Trump can keep his word—you never know what will happen—the price of electronics could go up with higher tariffs. The targets could include ebook readers, cell phones, tablets, and other gadgets dear to those TeleRead community members living in the United States.
My feelings are mixed. I believe in free trade and dislike the prospect of, say, a 45 percent tariff on imported Android smartphones. But with free trade must come laws for sufficient protection of workers and unions.
Donald Trump will never care about the right to unionize. Perhaps, however, in other ways, he can pay more attention to the needs of his blue-collar followers than his predecessors have (while remembering that automation—not just imports—has left millions jobless).
2. Amazon customers could be among the ones most painfully feeling the effects of those policies, given all the Chinese goods that Bezos and friends sell. A possible trade war with China and maybe even more physical conflicts won’t help.
3. I’m not fond of Trump’s past threat to penalize Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos with antitrust suits because the Bezos-owned Washington Post did its duty with diligent reporting on The Donald’s negatives. Wrong, wrong, wrong, Mr. President-elect.
At the same time, Amazon is worthy of close scrutiny by the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department because it is limiting consumer choice on such matters as Kindle typography (thus harming thousands of school children and older people along with other users).
This could happen only with a company dominating the ebook industry to the extent Amazon does. DRM-enforced lock-in only adds to the insult. Will Trump’s people grasp what is happening and act? Who knows?
4. Hollywood overwhelmingly opposed Trump. Might this make Trump and his allies more open to the copyright reforms that many in Tinsel Town would hate. A faster end to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, the banning of even noninfringing circumvention of DRM, and other atrocities?
5. What could happen to the self-driving car—which could open up a lot more time for ereading—if the President and his admirers are not the technophiles that members of a Hillary Clinton Administration might have been?
Will Trump simply see self-driving cars as a threat to the livelihood of followers? Will he encourage states to over-regulate?
6. Being a writer of any kind could be riskier if Donald Trump’s followers in state legislatures “loosen up” libel laws and if Trump-appointed judges feel the same.
7. How about writers’ freedom of expression in general, given Trump’s past threats against foes? This really should be higher on the list than Number Seven.
8. A surprisingly small number of members of minorities work in major jobs in the library and publishing worlds, and we also need more minority authors. With President Trump setting the tone for a number of industries, will affirmative action efforts suffer? Very possibly, given that he himself was once a target of a housing-related civil rights suit.
9. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has called for the defunding of the Institute of Library and Museum Services, and I doubt that IMLS is high on the list of Trump’s priorities. Hard to say. Ryan showed up at the swear-in of Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden and gave a well-crafted speech. Maybe he will surprise us. Don’t count on it, however.
10. The risk to IMLS is all the more reason for a National Digital Library Endowment funded by philanthropists, so libraries are less vulnerable to the fiscal whims of Washington. I’ve already shared my serious worries about Trump in a number of areas—they remain. But right now I’d rather look ahead of the positives that can happen with or without him in office.
11. Trump’s election was a setback to well-off people who want to blur the distinction between public and academic libraries. Academics—among the those most likely to be in charge of a combined public-academic approach—tend not to be as sensitive to family literacy and other mass needs as public librarians are.
We badly need two national digital library systems even though they could share many people and other resources. Even if Trump shows zero interest in library issues, his rhetoric has made everyone more aware of the needs of nonVolvo drivers.
For now, congratulations to The Donald. May his actions disprove our fears!
Over to you, readers. What’s your own take? In what ways might this shocker of an election shake up the ebook and library worlds?