Some completely unprofessional numerical comparison

The Library at Alexandria was the greatest of the ancient world. It was actually a Musaeum in the original sense -- a house of the Muses, a school and a repository for the arts and sciences. Their collection came partly from donations and partly from purchases, but largely from simply passing a law that any boat that docked in Alexandria had to let the Library scribes copy any books on board. Since Alexandria was a huge trading port, that meant a great many books passed through the city.

Nobody actually knows how many scrolls were in the collection; accounts range from 40,000 to 700,000. The most oft-cited number I've seen is 400,000. Nobody really knows when or how the Library was destroyed, either. Common knowledge for centuries has been that it went up in flames, but who exactly set the fire, why, and whether they intended to gut the Library or merely failed to pay attention to what was in their way is unknown. Virtually everyone agrees that it was a horrible loss for humanity.

Each "work", which would today be bound into a single book, was composed of a number of scrolls. It varied by piece and subject, but as a general rule I'm told that each scroll was "a tenth" of a book, roughly. Perhaps fifteen pages. Four hundred thousand times fifteen is six million pages lost at the Library when it burned.

In plain text, the equivalent of a printed page takes up about a kilobyte. There's some overhead with ebook files, but actually not a great deal -- the formatting is another subset of XML, sort of like HTML with some EPUB- or mobi-specific tags. The Kindle has about four gigabytes of storage on board, of which about 3GB is available for user content.

A megabyte is 1024 kilobyte, and a gigabyte is 1024 megabytes. Times three. 3,145,728KB of storage. I can carry just about half of the greatest library of the ancient world in a doozit that weighs, with its case, about a pound.

I think I am going to try very hard to never ever take that for granted.

Admittedly, mine is largely full of crap. In my defense I shall point out that one, some of the crap is not in English, and two, it's literature about on a par with what Homer was in his day -- exciting adventure stuff, told in an entertaining fashion. And some of it isn't crap at all, although I did make some effort to find some of Bertrand Russell's less querulous mathematical writing to stuff into it. No Shakespeare, unless you count the completely random Esperanto translation of The Tempest, but I do have Hawking and Feynman.

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