What a joy to this bibliophile’s frugal heart is the gutenberg.org website! FREE offerings of electronic books of all sorts (books which are no longer protected by copyright law in the U.S., that is), available to readers with no registration necessary. Book choices may be read online, or downloaded in various formats.
This is from their website:
“Project Gutenberg was the first provider of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and his memory continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today.”
And the online books are organized in various ways to make searching for something in particular a breeze. Additionally, we can see which books are popular downloads for our fellow readers by clicking on the “Top 100 Books and Authors,” or we can click on “Recent books” to see what has been added to the inventory since we last visited the site, or visit the “Bookshelves” to see groupings of related books, or access the online catalog and “Browse by Author, Title, Language or Recently Posted,” and so on. There also appears to be some sheet music on offer, and audio books, etc. I haven’t explored it all, but there’s a vast and growing body of literature available to readers—with no strings attached. Needless to say, I support the Gutenberg project with my donations. It’s a worthy and worthwhile endeavour.
I also support the ‘Brainpickings.org’ site and the ‘Wikipedia’ site. These are also places that I visit regularly, and whose benefit to me is immeasurable.
I only have to look at sites supported by ads briefly to feel assaulted by their intrusiveness and junk content. I never stay in them long.
‘MSN’ is a prime irritant. I sometimes end up there, like it or not, because I use hotmail. Today I saw a headline flash by on the MSN page: “Four dead, male suspect held in Canada school shooting – RCMP”. I was shocked by the headline, and wanted more information immediately, but by the time I’d clicked on it, the photo and headline had moved on, and when I clicked, I ended up in some dog and dog-owner lookalike article.
How infuriating to suddenly find oneself in a rubbishy article like that, when one is trying to get information on what is apparently a terrible, tragic event of national proportions. So I exited the dog-lookalike article, and scrolled back through the MSN items until I found the “Four dead…” headline again. When I clicked on it, I found myself being forced to watch a car-sales ad, while a ‘McCafe’ ad, with whipped-cream-topped coffee mug and stacked chocolate cookies flashed some animated characters to attract my attention at the side of the screen.
So here’s a newsflash for MSN from me: I did not click on the news item to be sold a car. I did not click on the news item to be told by McDonalds that ‘Love is Everywhere’ and that I should have a cookie. I needed to know what happened in a Winnipeg, Manitoba, school for four lives to be lost in a shooting. Throwing obstacles in my way will not improve car, coffee or cookie sales. It will merely cause me to grind my teeth and growl.
I realize that the user of these commercial sites is just ‘a mark,’ and fair game for anyone. But I have to wonder whether the advertisers would persist in allowing their ads to be played indiscriminately on MSN if they were aware that they risk attracting the viewer’s enmity and disgust. I might now have an AVERSION to their products as a result of this experience.
By contrast, my favourite websites are oases of calm and repose. Nothing jars my sensibilities or impedes my access to the information I want. These sites do not aggressively ram links to other sites down my throat; force-feeding me ads ‘here,’ scrolling photos rapidly across the screen ‘there’ while frantically running videos ‘someplace else’ on the same screen.
Giving Project Gutenberg, Brainpickings, and Wikipedia a few dollars now and again to support their efforts is an obligation that I gladly fulfill. If everyone gave them a few dollars regularly, I’m sure their operating expenses would easily be met.
Imagine what the internet would be like if every site needed advertising dollars to keep it going–an internet with no respite from interference. We’d find ourselves continually waiting interminably for our screens to unlock while some video ad that requires all our computer and communication resources loads something we have no wish to see.
That said, the reality is that websites require funding to continue their existence; and, for some, advertising dollars must be the way for them to sustain themselves. We must hope that they can find a happy balance between service to readership and service to commerce.
I won’t make a habit of visiting them until they do.