There is some fear that when paper books disappear from the shelves of bookshops and libraries, that in some way this will cause an inequality of access to books to the poor. In that the poor do not have access to electronic devices to read e-books.
A simple argument, disproved by reality.
Firstly, libraries can of course lend out e-book readers to those who require them, or library patrons could read the e-books on another fixed device such as a pc.
Secondly, the price of e-readers continue to fall and are (at <$130) within the reach of most people in Australia. Especially considering the cost of other pastimes in Australia such as gambling on which the average (unreconstructed) Australian spends $1097 a year.
Thirdly, and more importantly it is such a westernised false construct that the poor do not have access to technological devices. While, granted, most people do not as yet have e-readers, very many do have access to smart phones or other devices that do have much of the same functionality. It is a fact that mobile phone usage and ownership is highest among the poorest (everywhere) – merely because the poor do not have the means or infrastructure to support fixed line phones, or broadband or indeed often fixed homes.
The really (as opposed to the western relatively) poor in the developing world as the statistics here http://www.itu.int/ITU-D/ict/statistics/at_glance/KeyTelecom.html show, have very wide access to mobile technologies, far more than they have ever had good access to paper books.
There was no great push for providing books in print to the billions in the developing world, that I recall from book fanciers. And indeed, from an environmental perspective providing books on a western scale to the developing world would be catastrophic. The amount of tree logging, water use, bleach and dye pollution, transportation etc. to provide millions of books is completely ecologically unsustainable.
Far better to provide countless books in electronic form at negligible environmental cost and at negligible monetary cost to the world, as is being performed now.
E-books are and will continue to be the great leveller, providing entertainment, education, social mobility and creative opportunity to all the world, irrespective of locality or cost.
Many librarians have chosen to abrogate their lead in this evolution, so that vendors may do their job for them, but they had better not however continue to get in the way of this change.
Some faux argument that the poor and old in the western world may not have access to books when we go fully digital is just the last desperate overture from those who judge a book by its container.