An history of the rise and fall of inexpensive, leisure reading--why we publish free writings.
It was the nineteenth century that saw the drive for mass literacy, including the first public schools and the creation of accessible publishing for readers hungry for literature. In the twentieth century, literacy was reinvented; the popularization of the paperback book in the 1920s made the traditionally-bourgeois act of leisure reading far more accessible to the mass public.
This had two effects: the creation of new, "pulp" genres, such as mysteries, westerns and romance novels, and the increased significance of "high-culture" writing upon every aspect of American culture. Writers were considered influential thinkers.
Since 1979, when a U.S. Supreme Court tax ruling changed the financial structure of book publishing in the U.S., the price of books has skyrocketed. This, more than anything else, has discouraged leisure reading in the United States. Though people still use libraries (more than ever, in some ways), libraries tend to follow readers' wishes and expectations, the the publishing industry has reshaped what readers tend to desire. And though books worldwide tend to be less expensive than in the U.S., the American publishing model has had enormous impact worldwide, raising the cost of books in Eastern Europe, for instance, more than tenfold in the past decade.
The EServer is one of several projects online attempting to provide free access to quality leisure reading materials, in an attempt to preserve what we consider a valuable part of our cultural heritage.