What Will Be The Overall Effect of eBooks?
The World Public Library Blog Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 4
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Published Twice Weekly
by Michael S. Hart
Founder, Project Gutenberg
Inventor of eBooks
What Will Be The Overall Effect of eBooks?
Let's say that when all the smoke and mirrors are cleared, the net result of the whole eBook process is only that the world's literacy rate has been improved by 10%.
Not much, many people would say.
Hardly worth the effort of an entire career in eBooks.
Let's see. . . .
If we improve the world literacy rate by 10%, then we also improve the odds of a cure for cancer by 10%, and AIDS and all the other diseases humans are heir to, not to mention, that there are new diseases we must expect, and resistance to our current crop of medicines. The odds of beating any of these should also increase by 10%.
We should also expect similar improvements in engineering, electronics, agriculture, water sciences [important!], and alternative energy production.
In fact, we should be able to expect 10% improvements from any aspect of life where reading is required, not to let a little thing like WRITING be forgotten.
However, when all is said and done, I would like to think, in my heart of hearts, that eBooks will increase a world's literacy rate by more than 10% from the overly inflationed 50% rate so many are quoting today since the real literacy rate in the United States, where I live, is barely 50%!!!
eBooks Are Acquiring an International Flavor
Did you know that 5 of the Top 10 books published in Japan over the past two years were originally done by cellphone?
Then again, we must also consider the general life quality we all aspire to. . .most people agree that reading is one of the most important requirements of a fulfilling life.
This is all coming at just the right time, when graduation from high school no longer means a person knows how to get seriously into reading, much less having read Shakespeare, or any of the other greats.
I must admit that when I was a professor at a university I won't mention, as it is fairly famous, I was shocked there was no requirement, even from a famous liberal arts outfit near a world famous major city, to have read even a single piece of Shakespeare. Sorry, but when I did high school a Shakespeare play every year was the rule, sometimes two in a single year, starting in the eighth grade, so it was the case that most graduated having read, and written about, a whole handful of Shakespeare's play, not to mention all of the other great authors.
"It was the best of times,
it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom,
it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief,
it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light,
it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope,
it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to heaven,
we were all going direct the other way
- in short, the period was so far
like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities
insisted on its being received,
for good or for evil,
in the superlative degree
of comparison only."
These are the opening lines of: "A Tale of Two Cities,"
by Charles Dickens.
Just a word of warning: most of Dickens is by far way too Dickensian for me, too dark, too everything, so don't give up on trying this one just because it is Charles Dickens.
In case you don't know, "A Tale of Two Cities" are Paris/London, and the setting is the French Revolution. By the way I'll also recommend Les Miserables, if you want perspectives on the same period. It's funny, but I had already read parts of Les Mis long before I ever knew the whole story as they were published separately for readings in French class and I didn't recognize it! However, unless you are in French, one way or another, I suggest you use your own language.
eBooks in the Wild
People are reading more and more different kinds of eBooks these days, and all over the world, as well. We have been made aware of people reading manga as eBooks, and are sure we will receive reports of people reading "graphic novels"
and other formats as well.
In addition we are receiving reports of people reading the eBooks "off the grid" for extended periods that required a solar battery charger or the like.
The most remote reports we've had were from Antarctica, at McMurdo Sound, and that astronauts read them in space.
More eBooks in the Wild
We've received some requests that wouldn't really count as "eBooks in the Wild," but would be more of something like:
"eBooks in Captivity," so we are going to start new series entries of those, such as if see something of interest for us in academia, stores, the news, etc., which might not be strictly "in the wild.
Thanks so much for your continuing contributions!
PS. Sometimes people will send me the URL to a newspaper and all I get is a blank page that says I must subscribe, or I can't see anything at all; I don't really want to be an ad for such places, so I'm asking not to BE asked from anyone to post such URL's. I am posting this request here simply because I got a comment on one of the other pages I write with references, a URL, to a site that requires a subscription. I prefer a page that I write not to include any references that cost, or at least send to me with a warning.