A man standing in front of tall stacked bookshelves.
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Pennsylvania Prisons Replacing Free Books with Expensive E-books

New e-book library left many unimpressed. Many titles are expensive, useless and add no value to the lives of the incarcerated.

Pennsylvania terminated book deliveries to Pennsylvania state prisons in an effort to curb the drug smuggling menace. The new policy has book donation programs, such as the Books Through Bars, Book ‘Em, and orders from publishers and Amazon discontinued.

The Department of Corrections insists the incarcerated have adequate book access in the prison libraries. The prisons are also coming up with a mechanism that will have prisoners order books through the staff.

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The prisons have made available around 8,500 e-books. The e-books can be purchased and accessed on GTL provided tablets costing $149. Many of these inmates make about 19 cents per hour. They will have to purchase the tablets and the ebooks on 19 cents an hour if they have a ‘job’.

A review of a library has left many unimpressed. How are the books so expensive? A majority of the titles are also useless and add no value to the lives of the incarcerated.

Many E-book Titles are Free Public Domain Titles

Many titles offered by GTL of their e-book selection are free via Project Gutenberg.  The GTL links Gutenberg as the source of the online e-books. These free public domain titles cost an inmate from $2.99 to $14.99 each.

The E-books Are Too Expensive for Inmates

Other e-book titles have also had their prices inflated. For instance, The Green Mile by Stephen King costs an inmate 66 cents more than the normal public price. This is way too expensive for prisoners who don’t make a living wage. Inmates got these books free of charge from book donations programs.

Many Books Are Unavailable to Inmates

Despite many books being too expensive, many titles are not available for inmates to access. Some of the top read titles in prisons are surprisingly unavailable to the inmates. For instance, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is unavailable.

On the other hand, The Autobiography of Tony Bennett is available. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank is not available. The Diary of a South Beach Party Girl is available.

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Other unavailable popular titles include:

  • A Life Inside by Erwin James
  • Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
  • The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
  • A Prison Diary by Jeffrey Archer

Titles by popular prison authors like Robert Ludlum, John Grisham, and Donald Goines are missing. The Department of Corrections spokesperson Amy Worden said they will add more titles depending on the demand.

According to the Books Through Bars, legal dictionaries and regular dictionaries were the most requested books. A simple dictionary is not even available on these over-priced prison tablets.

A man standing in front of tall stacked bookshelves.
While ebooks aren’t inherently a bad thing, the amount of used books there are at low prices, as well as donated books found through programs like Books Through Bars, makes having to pay a premium for leisure material just because it’s digital very questionable. Image Source: Philly.com

Many Available Titles Are Useless

According to Keir Neuringer, a member of Books Through Bars, the list of available titles has concentrated on readily available free titles. Many of these titles are not needed by a majority of inmates. Many book titles on the list are not useful to many inmates and nobody wants them. They hold no value to them or provide any value.

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Abigael Shem
Abigael Shem has eight years of experience in academic, content, research and creative writing, editing and proofreading. Developing any type of content is now an easy task for her. When she's not writing, she enjoys singing, dancing, hiking, traveling and sports, especially football and basketball. Abigael currently writes news for prison loved ones on Prison Rideshare Network.