I remember hearing about Project Gutenberg well over a decade ago. I am shocked to discover it is actually the worlds oldest digital library1, having been started four years before I was born.
It houses upwards of 32,000 public domain items and is volunteer run offering text files for most of its works, as well as an increasing number of other digital formats.
Sadly I had not used it for my own reading until relatively recently.
The game changed
For me and I imagine others, the birth of the e-reader and formats that displayed digital text similar to that which people were used to in a paper version, marked a change in the use of this marvellous resource 2 and reading in general.
I don’t know many who have the patience to scroll through Animal Farm in .txt, word or pdf format let alone War and Peace. While the content may have been free it certainly wasn’t as accessible as the paper version. There’s little difference between a book you can’t find/buy/ borrow and one that makes reading nigh impossible i.e. they don't get read
Enter the E-reader and associated software
It’s now possible to read free e-book classics or purchase new titles and you don’t necessarily need an e-book reader to do it. While Amazon and Barnes & Noble (to name just two) have their specific e-readers anyone with a computer can enjoy reading an e-book.
Amazon provides Kindle for PC( and a number of other devices), ADOBE have Adobe Digital Editions and if you're are a little adventurous you can check out Calibre( which is a whole lot more than just e-book reading software). These interfaces enable you to take advantage of various e-book formats. While each piece of software has its quirks they generally allow you to:
- manage an e-book library,
- track your position in multiple books,
- make notation against the text
- search the text
Testing the waters without losing a kidney
With a basic Kindle now retailing at $US 139, price might be a moot point for some. For the financially challenged though, having the ability to try before you buy is a must.
Now while reading on a computer screen is not quite the same as reading from the new e-ink enabled readers. It gets you close enough to the functions of an e-reader to help you decide if reading digital formats is really you.
I am currently reading through my second e-book using Amazon’s Kindle for PC. Personally I was skeptical that I could maintain the patience to read off a computer screen for a long period of time. I have found it to be relatively easy though to adapt to reading using this software and have found its notes function invaluable when taking notes for a review.
In my next post in this series I'll take a closer look at e-reading software mentioned above.
1 According to this wikipedia article
2 I have looked but can find no stats on the usage of Gutenberg files to map to the release of e-readers
E-book adventures is my weekly series post outlining my exploration of the e-book format. See other posts here and join in the discussion.