“Ideas for a Free Society” the mini library of classical liberal texts on a CD

As the internet became more available people from around the world who shared our believe in the creative power of freedom began to be able to contact us . We helped them start small groups and asked them what else they needed and the answer was always books which surprised us because we assumed that they would have books that explored and explained the concepts and benefits of a free society as we did.

But they assured us this was not the case and mostly said that there was not a single text available to them that would teach them about these concepts and help them teach others. I was humbled and could not imagine how you would begin to learn about them or teach others without any access to texts by the great thinkers to whom we had access.

We and others tried to send books but that was too expensive to do in the required numbers. We also thought of putting the texts on line but there were copyright reasons why we could not do that and also the cost of access to the internet is far too expensive for many poor people in the world even in 2020 and access to it even if available at all, is too patchy to be useful to many as well.

Someone suggested we try a CD and we immediately started work on a mini library of classical liberal texts that we could put on a CD and transport relatively cheaply all round the world. Copy rights were an issue here too and we could only use the texts of those who agreed we could use them for educational reasons so long as no one then produced them for commercial purposes.

Our first batch in 2006 was 5000 which we thought was an enormous number. They went to partners in India, Pakistan, Ghana, Nigeria and Kenya who each had projects for their distribution and very shortly all had been used.  We have since made a 2nd edition of 100,000 with about 70,000 being produced in the UK and shipped to partners in about 60 countries and the remaining 30,000 were produced with NFS funding by partners in countries where the authorities would not want them to have been imported.

Then when the 2nd edition was all used we came to different copyright arrangements with the authors and have since produced another 50,000 in the UK with about 40,000 of those having been shipped to partners and many many more produced in country with funding from NFS.  Although this is more expensive than making big batches in the UK and shipping them there is no customs issues.

After the beginning of the project we began to think that if people who spoke English had little access to these texts how about those who did not speak English. Then in collaboration with partners NFS funded their production in other languages and there are now CDs in English, Turkish, Chinese, Russian, Kyrgyz, Portuguese, French, Arabic and Dari some of which are now used more actively than others.  The French ones have been particularly popular and useful in Francophone Africa where they have made the texts available to thousands in the last three years.

We had never expected the CDs to be in such demand and for so long and it seems this will continue for some years to come in some areas. Although there are other areas where computers no longer accept a CD, internet access is so good and cheap and enough of the texts can be put online that the CD is no longer used.   A possibly cheaper means of making these texts available is currently being developed by Certell.org where they would be on an app which could be transferable by blue tooth.