TeleRead began more than 20 years ago to advocate well-stocked national digital libraries for the masses, by far my favorite mission.
All along, however, we were providing ebook news and views—we are the world’s oldest site on those topics.
We also were the first ebook site to pay writers. But times change. That is why, this past summer, we shifted back to a noncommercial model and stopped paying. Predictably, you’re seeing many fewer posts.
I’m a writer. I hate to see my brothers and sisters work for free.
If they want to write from the heart, then fine. But without compensation for them, I’ll not expect them to crank out story after story on the ebook scene.
The villains: Google, Facebook and other megacorporations
You can blame Google, Facebook, and others. They siphoned ads from us and burdened us with bureaucratic requirements, such as the inability to run certain book cover images that you can find everyday on Amazon.
The Presidential election in the United States hasn’t helped, either. Rationally, countless booklovers have worried about America under a non-reader-in-chief, beyond such trifles as the risk of The Orange One being able to fire off H bombs. A result? Our community members are spending less time surfing ebook sites and maybe even reading books, even with the promise of literature as an escape. They devote more time to the New York Times, Washington Post, additional mainstream news sites, and MSNBC. Other ebook sites also have suffered—see The Digital Reader’s take.
What to do? Well, when Editor Chris Meadows or I want to post a new item, we still will. You can effortlessly keep up with us via our email list, posts from which we’ll link to the blog entries on the Web.
As publisher, I personally will focus on material you can’t find elsewhere, whether because of the topic or our particular viewpoint, even though I may publish other items too. Just one post of mine this month, New McCarthyism starts against librarians in Trump’s America, has drawn 10,000 views thanks to Facebook mentions. TeleRead is dead. Not! We may even be gaining in influence what we’ve lost in views.
Others TeleRead regulars may post as well. And we remain open to guest posts. In the next week or so, we’ll even run one from a priest up in Canada who calls for the end of dedicated ebook readers. Naturally Chris and I disagree with the author, but the submission is interesting enough to publish anyway. TeleRead is still around for you if you wish to offer well-researched heartfelt commentary, as opposed to stealthy “content” to promote Corporation X.
That said, Chris is busy with a full-time job now. Meanwhile I’ve concluded that even if TeleRead can’t make money and help support writers, I at least can focus more on Mission #1—digital libraries for all (and other library-related issues such as freedom of expression).
So along with two library types, I’m working on a separate advocacy site on the need for a national digital library endowment. LibraryCity has laid out a detailed vision for the endowment. But LC is too much like a newspaper or magazine. The endowment advocacy site will be for people new to the idea—a place to which we can link from our articles elsewhere, including one set for the January-February issue of Information Today. Earlier articles about the endowment have appeared in Education Weekly, Library Journal and the Chronicle of Philanthropy (direct links to articles).
If you’re interested in helping out the library endowment cause, especially since Trump and friends might kill of the invaluable Institute of Museum and Library Services, just write in. Mention your skills and point to your past writings online.
Corilee Christou, Jim Duncan and I are keen on hearing from librarians, but everyone is welcome to contact us. Are you an ebooklover with a genuine passion not just for the technology but also the idea of using it to promote knowledge, literacy and reading (this in the era of fake news and other challenges!)? Then you may be able to help by way of the new site or by way of contacting the right people.
The endowment and related spinoffs will not engage in left- or right-wing activism—just a defense of traditional libraries (even if I fear they are under threat in Trump’s post-factual word). I fervently disagree with a librarian who prided herself on not running pictures of Trump in a Twitter feed for the Internet Archive’s Open Library. Libraries need to be apolitical while remaining rich sources of information for people of all beliefs, even Trumpists.
Of course, libraries and librarians should fight for freedom of information and expression, imperiled under Trump. But those are not the usual ideological causes and should appeal to countless conservatives and libertarians, not just the left. William F. Buckley, Jr., was a fervent supporter of the original TeleRead vision and in fact wrote two “On the Right” columns in favor of it.
After the new endowment site goes live, I’ll post a sample “why we need the endowment” letter for you to adapt to your own situation.
Needless to say, the endowment idea would work in countries beyond the U.S. I’d love to see other people elsewhere (especially in the U.K., where so many libraries have shut down) engage in similar efforts and help us with our own.
It’s rather amusing that you plan on advocating for libraries but not “left-wing” activism. You can’t have one without the other, my friend, because the *last* thing that Republicans want is a well-read public. If you’re not advocating against them you’re paving the way for them.
Buckley? Hell, he’d be considered a Democrat in today’s political world.
More to the point, though, good luck. It’s a worthwhile effort.
@BDR: Thanks for your good wishes for the national digital library endowment initiative.
We’ll agree to disagree about conservatives and libertarians. Someone doesn’t have to be a lefty, as I am, to love libraries. I’d hope that even some Trump people—maybe more than some—would appreciate libraries even if The Donald himself is a nonreader.
That said, libraries must not cater to ideologues, especially the post-factual.
Let libraries be libraries—fact-oriented and professionally run—and let the chips fall where they may.