Jun 13 • 2M

$360 Billion Worth of Books on Sale for $70

Google has over 10 million free books to read and download.

 
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How human beings create value for one another
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The Library of the Benedictine Monastery in Admont, Austria

Gutenberg innovated printing around 1440. At that time an average book cost around 135 days of labor, ranging from 15 days for a short book to 256 days for a major work. Working eight hours a day, an average book would cost 1,080 hours. Today, blue-collar hourly compensation (wages and benefits) is around $33.39. That would put the money price of a typical book at $36,061 today if there had been no book innovation since 1439.

On July 4, 1971, Michael S. Hart created one of the first ebooks when he typed the Declaration of Independence on his computer and distributed the file to all of his friends. He went on to found Project Gutenberg with the goal to encourage the creation and free distribution of eBooks. In the last 50 years with the help of thousands of volunteers, they have created thousands of digital books in over 60 languages and dialects.

Google has become the new Gutenberg. They have a library of more than 10 million free books available for users to read and download. Assuming the average book is around 250 pages and a half-inch thick would mean you need a bookshelf around 80 miles long to hold this library.

Before Gutenberg and his press and Hart and his computer and Google and the internet and Amazon and their digital tablet and memory chip makers, it would cost $360,612,000,000 to have a 10 million volume library. It would take 5.4 million people working full time for a year to create this library in 1439.

Today you have have this library for around $70: $50 for the tablet and $20 for the 1 TB memory stick. Another really valuable feature we enjoy today is being able to search for a word or phrase in any of these books.

We also note that there are 20 times more people on the planet today than in 1440. More people are making things exponentially more abundant because the source of ideas and innovations are human beings. We can all enrich one another as we discover and create and share our valuable new knowledge.

In 2022 we can all enjoy reading a great book for almost free and use our extra 1,080 hours to create some valuable new knowledge to share.

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You can learn more about these economic facts and ideas in our forthcoming book, Superabundance, available for pre-order at Amazon. Jordan Peterson calls it a “profoundly optimistic book.”

Gale Pooley is a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute and a board member at Human Progress.