Just a few days after the announcement that Dr. Seuss's oeuvre will make its e-book debut, another canonical author—this one also bearded—is moving into the 21st century full force. The entire completed works of Leo Tolstoy, author of Anna Karenina and War and Peace, have been posted online and are available to all—free of charge.
That's 90 volumes and tens of thousands of pages in Tolstoy's native Russian—no beach read, as any literary minded college kid can tell you. Nevertheless, the collection of all of Count Leo's works in a single digital archive does represent a triumph of sorts. The archive came about thanks to the efforts of the late novelist's descendants, the Russian news network RIA Novosti reports:
The Tolstoy.ru website will feature the 90-volume edition that was scanned and proofread three times by more than 3,000 volunteers from 49 countries, Tolstaya said.
All of his novels, short stories, fairy tales, essays and personal letters will be available online for free and be downloadable in PDF, FB2 and EPUB formats, recognized by most e-book readers and computers, she said.
Of course, that list includes some texts and letters that would be quite difficult to hunt down in print editions. It also includes Tolstoy's most famous novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, which in many editions amount to more than 2,000 pages combined. You won't have trouble finding those at pretty much any bookstore anywhere. But as the college semester picks up, isn't it nice to find them online without a $19.99 price tag?
That's assuming, again, that you read Russian—a major roadblock for some potential users of the archive.
But if you're not in college, it could be even better news. Yesterday, on the subject of the Kindle Single, we discussed how the advent of digital reading devices has and has not changed what people are reading:
[Salon's Laura] Miller pointed to friends of hers who are indeed reading more fiction thanks to technological shifts, but they weren't lapping up short selections from, say, the Antioch Review. They were instead sinking into long classics like Middlemarch, "because for the first time they can carry around a 900-page tome in their shirt pocket." That's a tremendous convenience for those of us who read during our daily commute.
Anna Karenina regards 19th-century technological shifts with suspicion at best and moral despair at worst. But modern developments like this one only make it easier to read Tolstoy's lengthiest works while waiting for the F train.