In their opinion article “Prints charming” (8 February) Al Martinich and Tom Palaima make an important claim that is demonstrably untrue. It is that the building of libraries in the US by the Carnegie Foundation between 1883 and 1929 and the cheapness of printed books “provided a level playing field that even the cheapest laptops, mobile devices and internet services cannot duplicate”.
The Internet Archive is a modern-day online Library of Alexandria with 15 million books in it. And rather than being available only in towns in the industrialised nations, these 15 million volumes are available now to the one-half of humanity that has internet access.
All sorts of bad things are happening to libraries, but it does not help us fight the cuts that limit people’s access to good things to read if we sentimentalise what printed books have done for us and misrepresent the huge extension of opportunities that the digitisation of books has already provided.