The beautiful old book with a dark green cover and the title, Encyclopedia of Gardening, in gold lettering, was dated 1824 and cost $340. How sad. I simply didn’t have $340 to spare at the time.
But … like many other books out of copyright, I have discovered I can download and read the full text for free. I found that particular book in Google ebookstore.
Over a million books including many old gardening books, can be read for free by going to The Online Book Page. These include early gardening books published before 1800.
In 1988 Oxford University Press published a beautiful illustrated edition of the first popular gardening book in English – The Gardener’s Labyrinth, by Thomas Hill, written in about 1588. It’s on my bookshelf. It’s not the same as owning a genuine antiquarian book but it’s a great replica, and easier to understand than the original because of Richard Mabey’s introduction and glossary.
Libraries are in the throes of furious book culling, and bookshops are closing down. People are grieving for the demise of books. They say you can’t find books serendipitously on the Web as you can browsing shelves. Given a choice I would prefer to hold a real book in my hand. But if you can’t find a book or can’t afford it, I think this is an exciting development.
So - books are available for free or at minimum cost, on the internet. The real problem is information overload – how to find the time and concentration to read all those books? How to choose, prioritize? The vast number of choices can so easily lead to a state of mind numbing daze.