Monday, February 18, 2008

Recommended Reading

My wife did something very "retro" recently. She joined the public library.

In the 1950's , when I was a mere lad back in Pueblo, Colorado, every school aged child had a library card. Because, unless you were very, very rich, the library was where books came from!!

Back in 2001 I boldly predicted that the Internet would ultimately change all that. I believed that Congress, or perhaps even the publishers themselves, would overcome the enormous complications created by copyright laws and all books would be availble on-line for an affordable fee. Sadly, I wasn't quite correct in my predictions....... at least not yet.

Consider for a moment the magnitude of the opportunity to serve mankind.

The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with nearly 119 million items on approximately 530 miles of bookshelves. The collections include some 18 million books.

For the purpose of this discussion, let's assume each of those 18 million books has 250 pages.

Now my wife is a voracious reader. She can read 100 pages in a book in one evening. But even reading at this torrid pace, she could only read 11,680 books in her lifetime. And that's if she read for 100 pages a day for 80 years. Not a likely scenario.

But if she did, that's only 6/10ths of 1% of the books only in just the Library of Congress. And The Library of Congress itself only contains a small portion of the writings world wide.

In other words, we don't have a prayer of ever scratching the surface of human knowledge and creativity.

And of course a substantial portion of human creativity has already been lost. Books go out of print and fade into the dustbin of history. Which brings me to the point of this essay.

The World of Paul CrumePaul Crume was one of the most talented and insightful writers and essayists who ever lived. His column appeared on the front page of The Dallas Morning News from 1948 until his death in 1975. And selected essays have been collected into two books, now both long out of print.

My wife and I have been rereading The World of Paul Crume, because we are lucky enough to actually own a copy. This book, published back in 1980 won't be found in any library outside of Dallas, and probably not even there. As of this writing a few old and well worn copies of the book are available on Amazon but I can't promise you any will still be there when you click the link.

Sometime in the mid 90's Marion Crume (Paul's wife) or another relative set up a Paul Crume Website on Geocities. But even by 2001 the website had fallen into disrepair. Links were broken or missing. Nothing remains today.

Small snatches of a very few of Paul's essays used to be available at this site. My guess is that even for Paul's wife there were copyright or other legal hassles that prevented a larger portion of the books to be reprinted.

And here is where our society and government must allow and even force change. Every essay Paul ever wrote should be archived on-line. It would be easy and very inexpensive to do this. For a small fee (or perhaps advertising support) Every person in the world would be able to read his writings, be warmed by his wit, be touched by his love.

Millions and millions of similar, perhaps even greater works are held back from humanity out of greed, ignorance or simple stupidity. Today lawyers and "creative rights managers" in this country will withhold creative works from the Internet and let them disappear rather than allow one person to read the work for "free."

Every day this week Paul Crume has made my world a better place in which to live. We need for it to be possible for you to have the same experience. At the click of a button.

excerpt from the essay

by Paul Crume*

.....people know a great many things that science has not yet discovered.

    Science will eventually get around to discovering them and making them official, but meanwhile they work just as well while they're undiscovered.

It was several millennia after people had begun to use a good stout sapling to pry rocks with that science discovered the lever, and Archimedes announced that with a proper lever and a fulcrum to put it on he could move the world. This is an "iffy" scientific attitude. Science discovered the wedge and the wheel after people had been using them for years.

This inability of science to keep up with people is called a cultural lag.

It has only been 300 years since Issac Newton discovered that an apple, if it becomes detached from the tree, falls to the ground, though we may reasonably suppose that generations of apple-knockers had known this all along. True, Newton did figure out why the apple falls, a discovery of very little utility if you know ahead of time that it is going to fall.

* from the book The World of Paul Crume, edited by Marion Crume, copyright 1980 Marion Crume, SMU Press.

Here's hoping that science (or maybe the lawyers) will soon discover the Internet is a good way to both store and distribute the knowledge, wit and wisdom of mankind to all of mankind.

People have been knowing this for years, as Paul Crume might have said.

1 comment:

Vigilante said...
This comment has been removed by the author.