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An African American Reflects on TeleRead and Affordable Books

William Murrell is with Black Software and founded The African American Culture and Arts forum on Compuserve. While he is writing about African Americans, his perspective could also apply to members of other minorities.

By William Murrell,

Have you ever picked up a book and noticed the famous words below?

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher....

I know there are business reasons for such restrictions, but I can also imagine a world where knowledge can be free or at least cost much less than it does now.

Why should books be a "privilege"? Self-education is our right as Americans.

If we can read enough books, then we'll be able to repay society by using our skills constructively. My mother always told me, "The key to a self-sufficient life is to get a good education." It's been said that genius is born everyday, and a genius takes what he or she has and makes the best of it.

How to help this process along? What about the masses of our African American youth, potential geniuses? Someday could they use computers to dial up electronic books that were as easy to read as paper ones? And could these computers and books be extra-affordable, and even free to the some low-income people? Is this possible? I know it is.

Would this "TeleRead" program create more geniuses with better solutions to the problems that affect us and society at large? I know it would. And, since bookmaking is a business, would not African American writers and smaller publishers be able to share in the dream of a successful publishing business if they could effortlessly reach the best markets for their products? I know so.

Could not our high-tech entrepreneurs become more successful at selling their services and systems? Could they not create viable, profitable community-based businesses able to employ local folks? And could they not also help foster a new generation of reading-computers affordable by every household? Again, I know so.

This TeleRead proposal should be taken seriously by anyone who believes that technology should help all Americans, not just the rich.

So before the "Information Highway" comes to your area, make sure that it will provide affordable electronic books for you and your children.

Black people and other Americans are fed up with the cost of health-care, and now the politicians are getting the word. Let's do the same for books. Let's work to make them affordable.

Write the White House and your congressman now and tell them about TeleRead.

William Murrell |
 The SpiritDatatreesm Group
P O Box 701 Jamaica Plain, MA  02130

Founder  of the African American  Forum on CompuServe (type GO AFRO)

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Please pass around this essay, the TeleRead FAQ and a related Washington Post article. Ask your local newspapers to print or quote from the material, and editorials about TeleRead. Tell your children to contact their school newspaper editors. Spread the word among friends, teachers, and PTA contacts. Encourage community businesses to get involved. Ask your minister to endorse TeleRead. Don't forget about non-profit directors. The TeleRead idea means a lot to me as a parent and a Black person. In the past I have taught technology to African Americans, and my wife teaches third grade, and we're both tired of seeing children denied the books they need. Here is a constructive solution.-W.R.M.