Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reader inequality in our technological world

So there's a book I want. Quickly. I'm away from home, in Wales at my writing retreat. There's no phone line, no internet at the house but I have the marvel of the dongle - well, marvellous when it works, that is, which it often doesn't, apparently due to atmospheric conditions. (Sometimes it works when we're inside a cloud, though, and sometimes it doesn't when the sky is clear, so maybe it's a question of user overload as well.) But anyway, on this particular day when I want the book, it's working and I go to Amazon and click, hey presto! And then the next day I realise what an idiot I've been: one-click sends my book to my home address in Manchester, and I won't be home for another six days. So, because I need the book so quickly, I swallow the extra expense and order it again, this time making sure I give my address here in Wales. Round about the same time I get an email from Amazon telling me that my first order has been delivered. So I wait to hear that my second delivery, to the Welsh address, will follow quickly after. I do get an email telling me that my order is being processed but then: nothing. Finally, two days after I placed the order, I get an email telling me that the book will be delivered in Wales on Saturday morning (yesterday) - four days after I placed my order. Saturday morning I watch out for the sight of the red postal van crawling up the mountain towards me. It never comes. Sunday today, and I'm still without the book while it sits unread in my hall in Manchester. And I'm going back to Manchester early tomorrow anyway...

I don't know if this is an ominous sign of the Post Office slowly withdrawing its services from outlying areas, but it sure seems to indicate that when it comes to the difference between town and country, technology doesn't create the democracy that's so often claimed for it...
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