We assume that the internet can only make it easier and cheaper to access information, but what the internet really does, when it’s commercialized, is commodify information. In the future, publishers will be able to determine exactly how often a specific book or article is accessed, try a few different prices, and charge whatever turns out to be most profitable. If that profit can be generated by selling advertising, then the book will be made available “for free”; if not, users will be forced to pay. In the case of romance novels, this means “ad-supported books”; in the case of scholarly journals, if you don’t have an institution to support you, it means paying $5.99 to “rent” a single article for one day, the price currently being charged by Cambridge University Press.
If by any chance you’re a book person of any stripe who hasn’t yet read Charles Petersen’s article about the future of the NYPL, research, and books in general, it’s so important that you do.
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