Lots of people, myself included, have written over the past decade or so about how the Internet and the Web — to say nothing of e-mail, iPods, cell phones and all sorts of other paraphernalia — have begun to undermine the dominance that books, newspapers, magazines and other traditional forms of media have maintained for so many centuries. There's a significant downside to all this, of course, and the drawbacks have been catalogued and analyzed ad infinitum in countless new reports.
But there are lots of upsides, too. Real book-lovers, except the curmudgeons and those who refuse to be honest about such things, wishing instead to rant about the passing of a great age, have to admit that it's the coolest thing imaginable to carry a little electronic gizmo in your briefcase or your pocket that can hold whole libraries inside of it. Hasn't every honest-to-goodness bibliophile dreamt of doing something like that? Now we're on the cusp of that dream becoming a reality. Nothing could be more exciting.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the Espresso Book Machine, which can cook up a paperback in 15 minutes. Again, this is a contraption that, when and if it catches on, will drastically change our entire conception of publishing and bookstores, and dedicated book people, on principle, shouldn't do anything but applaud such a development. This will likely put long-lost books at your fingertips in a matter of minutes — and for very little money.
In a similar vein, I've been reveling in a fantastic Web site, www.dailylit.com, which allows you to choose a particular book from a list provided and then begin receiving digestible bits of the work every day in an e-mail message. That means, in a small amount of time every day, you can eventually read a book like Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace or Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time, either one of which might seem too daunting if you had to contemplate the massive bulk of a real book lying there waiting on the bedside table.
For example, Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days would appear in your e-mail or on a handheld device in 82 parts, while Tolstoy's Anna Karenina comes in 430 portions.
Albert Wenger, a founder of the site, was quoted by The New York Times recently in its "Arts, Briefly" section as saying that DailyLit's target audience "includes people like us, who spend hours each day on e-mail but can't find the time to read a book." So far, he said, 50,000 people have signed on, and since most of the titles are classics and in the public domain, the books are offered for free.
Site founders explained to Reuters back in May that they planned to expand their holdings, but would most likely have to charge for any new books that subscribers wanted to read. "We're looking to charge under $5 per title," said Wenger's wife and the site's co-founder, Susan Danziger.
There was also talk that, in conjunction with Berlitz, DailyLit would also be offering five-minute language lessons.