The first ebook appeared in 1971. It was The Declaration of Independence that pioneer Michael S. Hart keyboarded on a mainframe so copies would be free to any user of a growing computer network. Hart's insight was networked computers can make endless copies of public domain books, as text files, for free.
Gutenberg.org, an all-volunteer organization, implements Hart's vision and has made steady strides toward digitally preserving out-of-copyright books.
My first encounter with gutenberg.org, more than 15 years ago, showed great promise. At my desktop, I could quickly download files for Great Books and much more. But Michael S. Hart's Plain Vanilla ASCII copy of the Illiad, for example, had drawbacks. I needed to be at a computer to read the ebook. Unlike the portability of a paperback book. But advantages? Obviously, I could have more books than I'd ever read and not pay a cent.
If gutenberg.org didn't set off a wave of early ebook adopters, it
faithfully persisted in its mission, accomplishing something of value
that has taken the passage of years for all to appreciate: Public
domain works stored on electronic media for the first time. In its own
way, gutenberg.org's work is as revolutionary as someone in the 1400s
picking up a manuscript of an ancient Latin text, handlettered in ink,
and setting it to type on the new Gutenberg printing press that brought
forth affordable printed books in quantity.
Technology next brought us e-readers that were affordable, portable, and had bit-mapped displays for book pages that looked as familiar as typeset pages. Moreover, unlike a laptop, e-readers drain batteries over weeks, not hours.
Fortunately, gutenberg.org's trove of 38,000 public-domain Plain
Vanilla ASCII text files was perfectly positioned for automated
conversion to new ebook formats. Why? Because e-books are built around
text files that "flow" with minimal formatting. "Prettiness" can always
be added in the conversion.
Sadly, Michael S. Hart died September 2011, but had to know he made
a difference in the world. The next few years can only add to the
impact of Hart's 40-year-old ebook creation.
Gutenberg.org titles I've read recently include The Empire of Russia
by John Abbott (1,500 years of history of that great land), published
in 1859; and, currently, Zen Culture by
Thomas Hoover (a 1977 publication, now in public domain). Next, I plan
to tackle Lucretius' (c. 99-55 B.C.) splendid On
Things. Thanks, Michael S. Hart!
Read Charlie Dickinson's
story collection, The Cat
at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
7:25:13 Le Havre by Kaurismaki
7:20:13 This Ain't California
6:27:13 The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking, a book review
5.29.13 My Linux (Mis)Adventures
5.25.13 Southern Cross the Dog, a book review
5.5.13 Russian Tumbleweed
4:16:13 "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster
3.25.13 Moore's Law
3:13:13 Grocery Shopping
2:28:13 Razor Blade in Moonlight
1:27:13 Made in Russia: Unsung Icons of Soviet Design, a book review
12:9:12 White Bread, a book review
12:4:12 Update on Old-School Shaving
11:12:12 Ten Great Buys at Dollar Tree
11:6:12 My New Russian Camera
10:29:12 Leaf Day
10:2:12 The Russian Navy in New York?
9:21:12 The Righteous Mind, a book review
9:14:12 Revolution, 1989, a book review
8:23:12 Train Whistles in the Night
8:2:12 Why I've Stockpiled Light Bulbs
7:22:12 Old-School Shaving
7:16:12 Злектроника МК-52, computer de minimus
7:4:12 Ivan's Childhood by Tarkovsky
6:21:12 The Unabomber, a modern Thoreau?
6:12:12 Do the gods exist?
6:7:12 My "Retail Therapy"
5:28:12 On Taxes, We Should Go Green
5:17:12 Portland's Trash
5:6:12 The Toaster Project, a book review
4:24:12 No Seconds
4:12:12 Portland's Runaway Utility Bill
4:8:12 The Repossession, a book review
3:30:12 How I Got Published in Mississippi Review
3:9:12 The End of Money, a book review
2:18:12 Beauty Plus Pity, a book review
2:5:12 Kirk's Castile Soap
1:29:12 Confessions of a Fallen Standard-Bearer, a book review
1:22:12 Thirst, a book review
1:17:12 My IBM ThinkPad 1999-2012
1:11:12 String Beans
12:22:11 Spiritual TMJ
12:16:11 1Q84, a book review
12:11:11 How Portland Became Portlandia
12:1:11 The Fixie
11:20:11 Camus' Insight
11:13:11 Old & Worthy
11:7:11 Life Is Tragic
10:31:11 A Matter of Death and Life, a book review
10:25:11 Dead Letter, Email Fatigue
10:18:11 Reinventing Collapse, a book review
10:11:11 Rereading Pirsig
10:1:11 The Sisters Brothers, a book review
9:26:11 The Great Stagnation, a book review
9:16:11 Coffee, The Affordable Luxury
9:12:11 The Genius of Value
9:5:11 Death and the Penguin, a book review