It was just Amazon Prime day, so Jeff Bezos is probably celebrating being a slightly richer man in the world somewhere. I imagine him sitting silently in a room staring at the wall until it's time to go to a boardroom, but who knows how he enjoys his billions.
Amazon's global takeover is almost complete, but there are people advocating for it to go even further. A recent op-ed from Forbes written by Long Island University economics professor Panos Mourdoukoutas has incited public ire with its extremely wrongheaded notions about who should be doling out books to the public.
Mourdoukoutas' thesis is that we should close all public libraries and let Amazon replace them. With stores.
He writes that closing libraries would save taxpayers money, while basically ignoring that they'd then all have to buy their own personal copies of books that could be checked out of a library for free.
If you've never heard the term "ratioed," it's when a tweet has far, far more responses than RTs. As of right now, this guy's tweet of the op-ed has less than 300 RTs and about seven thousand replies.
Most of them are from people explaining why this idea is absolutely awful in every way:
Yes, your taxes fund libraries, so in a way, those books are not "free." But neither is driving on the roads your taxes pay for, or sending your kids to public school. The cost is just dramatically reduced by pooling resources.
Libraries also provide a huge number of services outside of books, like meeting spaces, community events, education, and can even help with employment. That's not something you can download on a Kindle.
The defense of libraries has brought up a public figure known for many things: Prince. A man of music, sexual appeal, power, and mystery. He also apparently had an extensive collection of library cards.
Tech CEO Anil Dash explained in a thread on Twitter how Prince supported local libraries with his riches, instead of advocating to tear them down.
Not only did Prince have a collection of library cards from the cities he visited, he donated money to save a library in Louisville that was known as the first library to ever loan books to African-Americans:
In 2001, Prince donated $12,000 to save the Louisville Free Public Library’s Western branch, the first to serve African American patrons. Prince dedicated the gift to “assist your library in reaching all areas of the community”. https://t.co/NpIVgnF25Z pic.twitter.com/ruN1xin60c— Anil Dash (@anildash) July 23, 2018
Prince didn’t like to discuss his personal life, but the Louisville gift is worth putting in context: Just days after 9/11, with his father having passed only 3 weeks earlier & his mother in the hospital with only a few months left, Prince used that moment to reach out and give.— Anil Dash (@anildash) July 23, 2018
He was also a guy who believed in independent stores that contributed to local flavor and kept communities from being homogenized and controlled by conglomerates:
Prince would also regularly frequent independent record stores in many cities that he toured in, often buying additional copies of his favorite classic albums as well as new releases. Sometimes he’d ask them to open up after hours just so he could browse around.— Anil Dash (@anildash) July 22, 2018
A lot of people asked how Prince would have been eligible for library cards outside of his home state, but he owned property in a number of places. There are also often programs that allow people to get library cards for a small fee.
Also, he was Prince.
Even before this op-ed made people erupt in a fury, comedian Siobhan Thompson made the popular point that you can drop Audible, too. The library has an app called Overdrive which allows you to download most books for free from the library with your card number. If they don't have what you want, you can request it, and it will eventually be added. I am speaking from personal experience: Overdrive FTW!
Hey it’s ya girl here once again recommending that, instead of subscribing to Audible, you get a library card and then download the Overdrive app, where you can listen to those same books for FREE— Siobhan Thompson (@vornietom) July 19, 2018
However, it's important to remember that the issue isn't just "what's the cheapest way to get books." The issue is who has access to books, literacy, and life-enriching programs. It can't just be people who can afford an Amazon Prime subscription.
You state things like (and I paraphrase) “people use their Starbucks card more than their library card” without citing sources or data. Your argument is thin and specious, and I do think you know it.— Nick Kolakowski (@nkolakowski) July 22, 2018
If “save the taxpayers money” is your lodestar for removing a societal good, then your perspective on what constitutes societal value is a sad one indeed.— Nick Kolakowski (@nkolakowski) July 22, 2018
Amazon, you can take my money, but you can't take my public services that are available to all. Prince wouldn't have wanted it, and that's good enough reason for me.