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When I was <18, most of the books I read were from libraries. My parents aren't poor, by any measure, but they don't believe in paying for a lump of dead tree you only read once. Books can inspire. They help you improve your literacy.

Local libraries are pretty cheap. Programs to give books to poor children may not be as cost effective. Giving computers to poor children may simply result in them being sold, either by the kids or their parents.

Commercial libraries (proprietary libraries) have existed. They typically catered to the kind of people who paid a lot for membership - upper middle class professionals. If we relied on commercial public libraries today, they would be stacked with O'Reilly's books, Tolkien, popular economics, management books, and the like.




I wouldn't mind having a paid membership in a library that carries O'Reilly's books and like. I would also probably try to convince my company to have one (and that would mean much bigger budget there). Most of such books are needed only for a relatively short periods of time and then sit there gathering dust for years. The library would be ideal for such things. I don't say this would necessarily work, there are many problems with this idea that would need to be resolved, but on the face of it I don't see why it couldn't work.


Private libraries exist today. The Mechanics' Institute is an example. My impression is they have a diverse collection, though I don't know for sure. http://www.milibrary.org/




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