Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Books Of All Kinds

In Chapter XI of his wonderful 1980 book (an offshoot of the series) Cosmos, Carl Sagan wrote:

[B]ooks ... have been printed in massive and inexpensive editions. For the price of a modest meal you can ponder the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, the origin of species, the interpretation of dreams, the nature of things. Book are like seeds. They can lie dormant for centuries and then flower in the most unpromising soil.
 I was thinking of him recently when I stumbled across a book in the Kindle store on writing photo plays. This book was written before the advent of sound in the movies, and provides a wonderful historical perspective as well as a purely visual approach to screenwriting that modern practitioners of the craft would do well to learn.

The book was free, available to anyone who owns a Kindle or has a Kindle application on their tablet, computer, or phone. And there are thousands of books like these, including The History Of the Decline and Fall Of the Roman Empire, and On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, or, the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

When Dr. Sagan wrote Cosmos, the Kindle did not exist. Even the idea behind Project Gutenberg was in its infancy, and the only the highly-restricted precursors to the Internet were in operation. I think he would have loved to see how, in the digital age, we can store our collective consciousness not only in libraries and book stores, but in devices that fit into our pockets.

And I find it gratifying that much of Dr. Sagan's work is available in this new medium. Including Cosmos.