The Coming Revival
December 29, 2008 1 Comment
Due to a confluence of birthdays and holidays, I now find myself with an iPod Touch and an iTunes gift certificate through no fault of my own. The iPod is a thing of beauty. I can’t even believe it exists. But as for iTunes, the whole concept of paying for mp3′s and, like TV shows still seems pretty foreign to me.
So how will I ever use of my iTunes gift certificate?
I have hundreds of albums on various media (mostly CDs, but a lot of “tapes” as well as old vinyl). Simply scanning all those albums into my library will likely take me years. And then there are podcasts which are free. So I will not be running out of anything to listen to.
What may change is that when (as rarely happens anymore) one of my favorite bands comes out with something new and I feel compelled to buy it (mostly to support the bands I like, I guess), perhaps now I’ll buy it on iTunes rather than physically. Perhaps. Although I can’t say I won’t miss having the physical object.
As for movies, there’s Netflix. As for TV shows, I have DVR to grab anything from the shows I regularly watch (which basically boils down to 1. The Office and 2. The Sarah Connor Chronicles).
So what about books then? I do read books, and I also hate owning books. Heavy blocks of wood byproducts that you have to lug around whenever you move. I do use the library, but you’re at the mercy of what’s in stock, and I always forget to return the books and end up with fines. Digital books are the perfect solution. And the iPod Touch actually looks like a decent vehicle for book-reading; no Kindle, but workable.
This brings me to the point of this post: Project Gutenberg. Thousands of books that have passed into the public domain are available for download – free. These mostly are pre-1930 books; they won’t be contemporary authors – no Dan Brown, no Harry Potter, no “Twilight” series, no latest cutesy clever Malcolm Gladwell confection, no “The Shack”.
Do I care? Heck no. It seems to me I could very well get by reading only what’s available on Project Gutenberg for the rest of my life.
I’d been aware of Project Gutenberg for many years but only now I’m starting to think it might have a real effect. It didn’t seem so important when “the Internet” meant dialing up a local server at 1200 baud and using ftp. But nowadays anyone with these reasonably cheap devices can download and effectively carry around hundreds of books at a time, many of them classics.
I don’t think the Barnes & Noble will be displaced by this anytime soon; on the contrary. However, what we may see is a revival of interest in many of the titles and authors who are public-domain. Looks like all of Jane Austen’s works are out there, but she’s already had her revival. But what about H.G. Wells, P.G. Wodehouse, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Conrad, Kipling, Chesteron? Will any of these gain new cred?
Especially with the economy being what it is, why go to the Borders and drop 30 bucks on some giant tome by Neal Stephenson that you have to carry around when you can apparently download practically the entire works of H.P. Lovecraft and have them in your hip pocket? Maybe hard times + cool tech + capriciousness of public-domain laws + overexpensive books = 19th/early-20th century revival. Or maybe I’m just overextrapolating. We’ll see I suppose.