I grew up in a house where books were appreciated. There were always books around and you could expect that birthdays and Christmas would bring special books--hardback books. My father collected history books, particularly about the Civil War, and my mother loved mysteries but she also had a set of those gray, clothbound "Mocdern Library" editions of the clasics. The only one of those i remember reading was the Rubiyat of Omar Khayyam, but she had the Russian novelists as well. i am way behind on reading the Russians, except for Pushkin. (But I digress.)
My point is that in my family we all bought books and sometimes that meant spending a significant chunk of money. Even when I was in high school hardback books cost a lot and you didn't buy them on impulse. the idea of free books--even books that were in the public domain--was just a lovely fantasy. FREE BOOKS!!!
And then came Project Gutenberg. On the project's landing page you'll find the slogan, "the first producer of free books" but really, it's so much more than that. For me, it's the equivalent of the "seed banks" that are preserving our genetic heritage and the DNA of species on the verge of extinction. If civilization collapsed today, Project Gutenberg's repository of past literature would allow us to carry on with the accumulated wisdom of the past. There's probably a short story in that. There are more than 45,000 books in their data base and it's growing every day. And think about this--Johannes gutenberg was born in the 14th century. Seven centuries ago...the past is prologue.