Effect of Government Shutdown on Libraries, e-Publishing and the Stuff We Write About

Since I live in a suburb of Washington, D.C., there was little to no rejoicing when I woke up this morning. My Facebook feed was full of angry, disgusted people. My “hometown” newspaper, The Washington Post had news about little else.

So naturally, my curiosity was sparked, and I began to do some digging to see how a U.S. government shutdown would affect the topics we write about on this site. And the answer was “not too much.”

Here was what I found.

1. The Post Office is privately funded, so your new Kindle Paperwhites should arrive on October 10. As will anything else you order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or any other book or tech-related site.

2. Government-run libraries will be shut down, but that won’t affect you going to your local library, either in-person or online, to check out books. Even D.C. residents will be able to go to the library since Mayor Gray has declared them “essential.” (Actually, he’s declared all local government personnel “essential” and will pay them out of a rainy day fund.) I really liked this quote from the Mayor’s press release

“It is ridiculous that a city of 632,000 people—a city where we have balanced our budget for 18 consecutive years and have a rainy-day fund of well over a billion dollars—cannot spend its residents’ own local tax dollars to provide them the services they’ve paid for without Congressional approval.”

3. The Patent and Trademark office has enough funding to continue for about four weeks, based on what I’m reading. So Apple, Amazon and everyone who has a patent in process will continue to have them reviewed, at least for the moment.

4. Courts can continue for about ten days, since they have funding from fees and fines. However, the Justice Department has said they will scale back civil litigation for the duration of the shutdown. That’s good news/bad news for patent trolls.

Of course the big publishing houses are unaffected, as are indie publishing companies. Furloughed government workers who are also authors will have a bit of time to work on their novels, I suppose, but I doubt that’s big enough to consider “an impact.”

So it’s odd that the biggest news where I live has little to no effect on this part of my job. Odd. Seemed like I should notice it more.

Does anyone have an impact I’ve missed? Please share it! And many apologies to our readers from other countries. I’m sure you tire of our government temper tantrums.

7 Comments on Effect of Government Shutdown on Libraries, e-Publishing and the Stuff We Write About

  1. A bunch of Federal employees with no paychecks coming in to buy food or pay for housing seems like an impact. And really, they’re probably not going to be shopping much in general which will cut into sales tax revenue. And if the shutdown goes too long, then there’s always not paying their property taxes. Sales tax revenue and property tax revenue fund local public libraries.

    I’m within about 4 hours of 3 large National Parks, Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, and Death Valley. They’re all closed, which impacts tourism and hits all the businesses in town. If they don’t have customers then their employees don’t get hours and they don’t get paid.

    In your area, all the Smithsonian Museums are closed, all the monuments and National Parks. That’s going to cut into tourism dollars there.

    Yeah, there’s a lot you’re missing.

  2. De,

    I would not minimize the everyday affects the shut down has on people but most of what you are mentioning does not have an direct effect on TeleRead as news sources.

    Of course this does:

    (message from link for the future when the US Government is working again)

    Due to the temporary shutdown of the federal government,
    the Library of Congress is closed to the public and researchers beginning October 1, 2013 until further notice.
    All public events are cancelled and web sites are inaccessible
    except the legislative information sites and

    Which is a follow up from a previous TeleRead story about THOMAS scraping the info from LoC.

  3. @De, I too live in the DC area, and there’s definitely an impact to people and the economy. However, the shutdown has seemed to have little impact on the world of digital publishing, as Bob reiterated in his comment.

    Thanks, @Bob for the reminder about the Library of Congress.

  4. I’m worried about the trickle-down effect of that many people having no money to spend on e-books.

    And by “that many people,” I don’t just mean federal employees and employees of federal contractors. A photographer friend of mine says a number of his clients have cancelled photo shoots, due to the shutdown. I doubt my friend is going to be buying e-books this month.

    For many people, literature is a luxury good. Even though entertainment can sometimes be the last luxury to go in any economic crisis, we’ve seen time and time again that publishing companies go out of business during periods of bad economy, because many of them survive on slim profit margins.

  5. @Bob, thanks for those. And well done, including a Jurassic Park reference. :)

  6. Yes it impacted my group of 31 8th graders who have saved for three years to make a trip to D.C. this past week. With everything closed, it was truely a horrible example of how our government is supposed to working for “us”. They have no clue. We are by no means a wealthy community and many students and their parents struggled to ( some haven’t paid in full yet} to fund this trip.

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