A couple of weeks ago, Daemon’s Books reported that the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the government-appointed group looking into the causes of the financial crisis of the last few years, has signed a book deal with Little, Brown and Co. to publish its final report (due out in December). The e-book version of the report is going to involve links to “documents, videos, and sound bytes.”
Daemon points out that, as part of the book deal, the government will be making some money from sales of the report (in printed and e-book form), and wonders whether that will give the commission incentive to give the report a more sensationalistic spin. Of course, like other government reports, it will also be available free on-line—and since government reports are in the public domain, there’s no reason other publishers couldn’t republish it as well.
Of course, another government report that is going to be on people’s minds today is the 9/11 Commission’s report, published on July 22, 2004. Perhaps unusually for a government report, this report was widely praised for its literary qualities, and reached the top of a number of best-seller lists as well as being adopted into a number of movies, miniseries, and even a graphic novel.
The attack on the World Trade Center, nine years ago this morning, was a terrible tragedy—not only for the thousands of people who died that day, but for the consequences it has since had on world politics and individual freedoms. It has left an indelible stain on our psyches, to the point that even nine years later the asinine argument over whether a Muslim group should be allowed to build a community center in the area, not to mention the furor over a Koran-burning extremist lunatic publicity hound, continue to grab far too much attention in national news headlines. The televised images of people falling (or jumping) from the burning tower will be with me until the day I die.
It was also the first major disaster of the e-book age. The final report issued by the commission investigating the attack was available not only in printed form, but also the PDF was just a few clicks away from a public desperate to understand how something so terrible could have happened. As a public domain document, it was also immediately converted into multiple e-book formats and made available in many places, where it can still be found today. (Ebooks.com has it, as does eBookMall, and it can also be found on iBiblio. All free, of course.)
And now that there are plenty of e-book reading devices capable of reading it, this document can be seen more widely than ever—as can many other documents. You would think that the ability to transmit knowledge so easily through the wires and airwaves so that it can be seen by people all over the world ought to bring a new era of peace and understanding. But sadly, human nature still persists.
As we remember the events of that tragic day nine years ago, let’s pledge not to be distracted by all the hatred and extremism that continue to make themselves known. We must never forget what happened, and those responsible who are still at large should be brought to justice. But we should also not let it stop us from doing what we can to further the spread of knowledge and education and make the world a better place for everyone else.