Free eBooks, anyone?
The name Gutenberg is synonymous with the printing press — an invention that, around 600 years ago, ensured the exponential acceleration of human knowledge. In today's digital age, the Project Gutenberg website continues this tradition, appropriating the ethos of the inventor's name for their free, aptly-titled eBook repository.
With over 46,000 titles available (and 100,000 through their partners), Project Gutenberg is a keystone development in the digitisation and cataloguing of literature in the public domain. It is a working model of how new technologies can increase the rate of global collective learning.
Here are some classics that we've managed to find — definitively riveting tales freely available to anyone who has the good fortune of simply stumbling upon them.
The time machine (h.g. wells, 1895)
H.G. Wells' The Time Machine is a landmark work of science-fiction. Credited with popularising the modern concept of a time machine, this now 120-year-old book is still as fresh and though-provoking as it was when it was first published. A timeless piece of fiction.
The socratic dialogues (plato, circa 399 B.C. – 347 B.C.)
The Socratic Dialogues are a series of conversations written by Plato, student of the Ancient Greek philosopher, Socrates. Although fictional, the dialogues and discussions pivot around ubiquitous abstract topics such as morals, ethics, love and what it means to be good. Very much grounded in real-life opinion, perspective and circumstance, the dialogues are all exemplary of the Socratic method — a truly indispensable tool and mode of enquiry. If you are at all interested in philosophy but have no idea where to start, these dialogues are considered foundational not only to Western morality, but also to the literary tradition of philosophy as a whole.
around the world in 80 days (jules verne, 1873)
At a time when the world teetered at the cusp of a new age of discovery and technological development, this book was released and captured the imagination of pre-20th century Europe. You probably already know the story from — if not the telling title — the multiple adaptations that have sprung into existence since Verne's highly acclaimed work was first released in France all those years ago. If you're a history buff, and you like travel, then this journey will surely be able to offer old but new perspectives on once-exotic far-off places that you yourself may have visited hundreds of years after the fact behind this fiction.
Flatland (edwin abbott, 1884)
Fully titled Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, this satirical novella utilises the two-dimensional world and characters of Flatland in order provide insights and observations into the hierarchy of Victorian England. Although it is a fascinating socio-historical account in and of itself (if you're interested in it), the novella is most notable for its use of dimensions as an allegory in its examination of cognition, perception and to an extent, the nature of reality itself. Metaphysics abound!