Last week I made the not-so-momentous decision to buy an eReader. Since I'm not exactly rich at the moment, my choice was made simple: a device not linked to any book store or retail outlet. A straight-out vanilla reader where I wasn't expected to link up to any outlet which requested me to buy anything. Very luckily for me, I received 40 free text files already on the device, along with a carry case and a memory card, which seems kind of useless because it doesn't seem to fit anywhere. But with a massive 4 gigabytes of space to download whatever I want including music and videos, I'm not complaining.
I'm trying to imagine what it would be like if I was sixteen years old, and on the verge of discovering great works of literature. I'm certain I could be a big threat to the status quo. Just think, some of the greatest writers in the history of civilisation all on my personal eReader for free! Shakespeare, Dickens, and the great Russian novelists and short-story writers like Dostoyevsky, Tolstsoy and Turgenev. Not to mention the paragons of American social realism like Upton Sinclair and Jack London to name just two off the top of my head.
Many of these writers works are available as public domain files at the Project Gutenberg site and other sites specialising in free e-books, which, at the moment, are probably too numerous to mention. Pardon my cynicism, but I don't believe that the elites who think they are running things, would like to have it be known, that reading is actually beneficial in that it greatly assists individual thought. It's hardly a novel concept after all. Reading can be a downright incendiary act, especially if you are young, open-minded and eager to know and understand the world. At least that's what I was taught, and I think that the people who taught me were right.
If the internet is allowed to follow its natural course, and become the free, open and world-wide source of information we all would like it to be,I think the world is going to be in for a big shake-up, something like what happened when Martin Luther nailed his theses on the door of a German church in 1517. And books like "The Iron Heel", "The Jungle" and "Crime and Punishment" for example, will not be merely the privilege of the few who believe they possess the intellect to understand what the authors intended. Canonised books such as these will be reinvented by the public imagination, away from the musty halls of university libraries and into the hearts and minds of those of us who believe in equality of information and access for every person on the globe no mater who they may be.
I believe that the copyright laws we have at the moment are antiquated and need to be reformed if the internet is permitted by new and more enlightened statutes to progress further down the road of accessibility and inclusiveness.
With nothing to divide us, we can accomplish anything.