Monday, May 10, 2010

Free Books!

If you have ever read any space opera or even been a casual observer of sci-fi on television (e.g., Star Trek), you will be familiar with the idea that one of the advances civilization finally managed to accomplish with the advent of advanced computing capabilities was the information net, where all human knowledge, information, science, art, literature, media, news, and data was collected, stored, and backed up in multiple locations — so many locations, in fact, that it was almost alive in the ever-growing cloud of data that was accessible to all with a mere click of their mouse, com unit, or other fanciful device dreamed up by the minds of the legends of science fiction. Those of a certain age may recall the late, great Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Series, as well as other seminal entries in the field by the other two giants of science fiction, Robert A. Heinlein (Stranger In A Strange Land) and Arthur C. Clarke (Childhood’s End), whose dreams of what the future held for humanity have in many respects come true, as space travel, personal computers, hand-held communication devices, tasers, AI, solar power, electric cars, and even energy bar have in many respects become commonplaces that we take for granted. Recently, part of the information legacy predicted by these authors and others has started to come true, as the advent of the e-reader has made it (or started to make it) a winning proposition for books to be published electronically, so that a true e-library is possible. The current iterations are in flux, but the respective plans of Project Gutenberg and Google Books to digitize the entire catalog of all available novels, plays, stories, biographies, poems, tomes, treatises, and arcana are a huge step in the direction of allowing the public to freely access humanity’s cultural legacy.

If you’ve never taken a look at what you can read for free, check out Project Gutenberg. Over 30,000 titles are available at the click of a mouse, including works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Saki, and many many many other acclaimed writers. And soon Google will be adding 4 million more titles for your reading pleasure. Better upgrade your RAM.

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