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E-Books May Turn Digital Divide Into a Reading Divide

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Due to the rise in popularity of e-books and other digital texts, some worry that the digital divide may soon become a "reading divide." Low-income communities, particularly African American ones, have not only struggled to keep up in a world increasingly reliant on technology, but continue to trail their peers in literacy rates by a significant margin. The author Marita Golden told Reuters, "My biggest concern is that the technology will continue to widen the gap. It won't just be the digital divide but also a reading divide if reading becomes an activity that's now dependent on technology."

E-Books and other digital media have many advantages over traditional paper, but in a world where those tools can cost $100 or more (not to mention the price of the e-texts themselves), lower-income students may quickly find themselves on the wrong side of a growing gap in education and literacy. While iPads and laptops are being handed out students at expensive colleges and experimental high schools, access to newer digital texts is severely limited in low-income neighborhoods. This may not be a major issue when teaching literature, but schools in poorer neighborhoods may have to settle for older textbooks, or community colleges could have to rely on aging research, as publishers shift focus to digital initiatives.

Ultimately e-books and the digital divide may not lead to an expansion of the literacy gap, as Golden suggests; paper bound books will be around for the foreseeable future. What the growing focus on digital texts may lead to, however, is a decline in the quality of texts available to minorities and other low-income groups. Many of us take for granted the advantages of our digital world, but it's easy to forget that there are those that get left behind in the race to embrace technology.

Tags: digital divide, DigitalDivide, e-readers, education, literacy, marita golden, MaritaGolden, reading divide, ReadingDivide, top