National Catholic Register


Why Are The Feds Banning E-Readers?

BY Pat Archbold

| Posted 8/8/10 at 7:26 PM


Sometimes the federal government does something so laughably moronic, that one has to stop and ask the question “Are they really that dumb or is something else going on?”

Here is the setup.  Recently a number of universities around the country decided to take a look at using some modern technology in the classroom in an effort to save money.  These universities took part in an experimental program to allow students to use the Amazon Kindle for textbooks.  As you know, many people now use e-readers like the Kindle or the Nook as a replacement for traditional printed books.  There are many reasons for this including cost, environmental impact, and convenience.  Further, anyone who has gone to college understands the high cost of textbooks and would likely support any way to reduce this large expense.

Here is the pathetic punchline.  For conducting this experiment with the Kindle, Obama’s Department of Justice threatened legal action against the universities.  The ridiculous contention of the Obama administration is that the Kindle and e-readers violate the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Why?  Because the blind can’t easily use them.

Now the first thing that would pop into the minds of anybody with a third grade education and that does not work for the government is this simple question.  If e-readers discriminate against the blind, do not traditional textbooks discriminate equally?  The obvious answer is yes.

This line of reasoning is so absurd that it is hard to believe that even federal employees could be this myopic and moronic.  So it begs the question:  What might be the real motivation here?  What else could be at stake that the government would prefer to be considered neo-luddites rather than reveal their true motivation?

Warner Todd Huston, writing at Gateway Pundit suggests that the real motivation may be money.  That universities and professors make gobs of money off forcing students to by expensively priced textbooks authored by their professors.

While this is true, I don’t think that this really speaks to the motivation of the federal government.  After-all, it was the universities who wanted to try this and the federal government that put a stop to it.

I posit another and perhaps more nefarious reason.  I think that the federal government is adamantly opposed to the use of e-readers as an alternative to textbooks for fear of loss of control.  This loss of control is not so much at the university level but at much younger levels.  The universities just happened to be the first ones to try.

Publishing a textbook is a very expensive proposition.  So text-book publishers need to be sure that they will sell.  This fact limits choices to school boards across the country.  Control over curriculum is driven by the limited choices in textbooks.  Individual school boards that are unhappy with the choices can do very little about it because they do not constitute enough of a market to be worthwhile to publishers to provide alternatives.  So school boards are forced to pick their poison.

A great deal of control over curriculum nationwide is exerted through textbook control.  Education is critical to progressives.  Remember, those who control education, control the culture.

This explains why progressive educators nationwide were up in arms recently about State government mandated changes to textbooks in Texas.  The market for textbooks in Texas is so large, that publishers would have to meet the demands.  Once these textbooks were published for Texas, publishers would naturally try to sell them to school districts elsewhere as well and political progressives domination of textbooks would be in jeopardy.  This is why the Texas curriculum story was a national story.

So now imagine the impact that e-readers could have on the primary and secondary textbook industry.  A large part of the cost of textbooks and a key factor in limiting the variety of textbooks available is the actual printing costs.  If printing costs were substantially reduced or even eliminated, textbook publishers would be much more free to create custom textbooks more acceptable to school boards across the country and in particular those red states in flyover country.

If the cost of publishing textbooks was substantially reduced by using e-readers, publishers could and likely would make alternative textbooks, with a more culturally and socially conservative bent, available to school districts nationwide.  With absolutely no need to reprint in order to strike or change anything offensive, it would be easy.

I posit that the democratization of the textbook industry, and consequently ideas and beliefs, might be the real fear of the administration.  I suppose that the administration would prefer people believe that they are backward and bureaucratic rather than reveal their true intent in banning e-readers.

They might not be neo-luddites after all, they might be Stalinists.