Skip

World eBook Fair
July 10, 2006 8:43 AM   Subscribe

World eBook Fair - Project Gutenberg opens the door to even more books online for free (through Aug 4). Not just public domain stuff, but copyrighted works like Ulysses (PDF), T.S. Eliot (500 pp. PDF), and Neal Stephenson (PDF). Over 300,000 additional works online.
posted by mattbucher (51 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Gee, can anyone give me some money to finance all that extra time for reading old and new classics? ;-)
posted by homodigitalis at 8:54 AM on July 10, 2006


Super!

A hint for ebook fans: try Foxit reader instead of acrobat - it's like a bajillion times faster and less bloated, and works just as well as far as I can tell...
posted by fleetmouse at 9:03 AM on July 10, 2006


Gee, can anyone give me some money to finance all that extra time for reading old and new classics? ;-)

Me first.
posted by loquacious at 9:05 AM on July 10, 2006


Aren't the Ulysses gatekeepers basically going to burst into flame in about 30 seconds?
posted by craniac at 9:11 AM on July 10, 2006


I'm sure Stephen Joyce will try to sue or flip out and burn some more manuscripts.
posted by mattbucher at 9:13 AM on July 10, 2006


Is anyone else finding this somewhat cumbersome to just browse?
posted by geoff. at 9:43 AM on July 10, 2006


They are getting a million downloads a day so I'm sure that's contributing to the delays, but yeah, it's taking a while to get to these 500 pp PDFs. However, I think they are envisioning users doing more than just browsing: "Now these books are yours for personal use, free of charge, to keep for the rest of your lives." So the couple of minutes waiting for the PDF might be worth the trouble of having an electronic copy of Ulysses on your hard drive.
posted by mattbucher at 9:46 AM on July 10, 2006


Thanks mattbucher
posted by ScrewDriver at 9:47 AM on July 10, 2006


Of course people are going to download free stuff but are they ever going to read them? Of course not. I mean, who's going to read war and peace on their monitor?

Real books are just so much better: they're cheap, they don't make your eyes hurt, you can swap them for other real books, you don't care if you lose them and having lots of them in your house makes you look clever and thoughtful to girls. Also, if there's no power, you can read them by candlelight.

I'm sorry, but until someone comes up with an ebook that does all this and you can read in the bath, I'm just not interested. Like it or not, paper is one kick-ass delivery mechanism when it comes to the printed word.
posted by rhymer at 9:50 AM on July 10, 2006


Agreed, rhymer. However, if you are a scholar researching and writing on Tolstoy, it might help you to have a searchable PDF of War and Peace to find a particular reference. Carrying around a laptop with 200 ebooks on it is a hell of a lot easier than carting around 200 books. I am an absolute bibliophile, but I see the benefit of having both paper books and ebooks.
posted by mattbucher at 9:58 AM on July 10, 2006


Your favourite characheter-based optical media sucks.
posted by persona non grata at 10:30 AM on July 10, 2006


Wait... I'm confused... how is this legal? Can't we keep the books after the "fair"?
posted by phrontist at 10:32 AM on July 10, 2006


During the school year, I read three or four novels a night, and I'd never ever choose to read those in paper form.

Reading books on my Nokia 770 is the best reading experience I've ever had. You never loose your place in ebooks. You can set books to autoscroll, and work on increasing your pace if need be. They're backlit, so you don't have to get up to turn the light off before going to bed. You can adjust the font size, so you can read without your glasses. You can set it up so a double click on a word pops up a definition.

I can carry more books than I could ever read in my entire life in my pocket, so I don't have to worry about bringing "enough books" for that flight.

I still read "treeware," and I prefer technical books in paper, but novels? Ebook.
posted by adamwolf at 10:33 AM on July 10, 2006


Another resource I have been exploring lately is my local public library, which has interoperability agreements with several ebook publishers. Haven't located the corpus of PG Wodehouse yet but I hope to!
posted by mwhybark at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2006


You can keep the PDFs forever. I have no idea what the legal implications of this are, but some of the terms and conditions of the WPL are discussed here.
posted by mattbucher at 10:43 AM on July 10, 2006


Ahem. Three or four novels a *week*.
posted by adamwolf at 10:46 AM on July 10, 2006


mwhybark have you seen this yet? So.... much.... Wodehouse
posted by pantsrobot at 11:08 AM on July 10, 2006


Real books are just so much better: they're cheap, they don't make your eyes hurt, you can swap them for other real books, you don't care if you lose them and having lots of them in your house makes you look clever and thoughtful to girls. Also, if there's no power, you can read them by candlelight.

I'm sorry, but until someone comes up with an ebook that does all this and you can read in the bath, I'm just not interested. Like it or not, paper is one kick-ass delivery mechanism when it comes to the printed word.
posted by rhymer at 12:50 PM EST on July 10 [+fave] [!]


Rhymer, the reason real books lok better is that they are basically high resolution, whereas ebooks are low. Book are printed in 300-600 dots per inch, monitor screens are at best 96 dpi. When monitors get to 300dpi, particularly the e-ink types, the screens will look exactly like paper.

They will feel different, of course.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:25 AM on July 10, 2006


I just got an eBookwise eBook reader. I got it because it's cheap, and I want to see if eBooks will work for me or not (yeah, yeah, yeah, paper is better, but it's hard to lug around the Riverside Shakespeare on the Subway). If I like the experience, I will upgrade to something better -- hopefully something that uses eInk.

In the meantime, the eBookwise machine doesn't read pdfs. It DOES read rtfs, html and ascii. Is there any way to hack into the pdf and convert it. Since pdf is mostly a graphical format, I doubt it can be done, but I thought I'd ask.
posted by grumblebee at 11:27 AM on July 10, 2006


the reason real books look better is that they are basically high resolution, whereas ebooks are low.

There's another difference between eBooks and print books. (link to my blog.)
posted by grumblebee at 11:30 AM on July 10, 2006


mattbucher, I agree that for scholarly stuff and reference manuals ebooks are probably better. The best evidence of this is that enclopedias have been ebooked for ages and are far better for it. But for the traditional reading experience - 250 pages, read mainly for pleasure, I'd struggle. I'd also add that I'd struggle to read more than about ten pages of anything on a screen, whatever reason I was doing it for.

Adamwolf, I'm impressed as hell that you can read four books in a night and if you're doing that on a Nokia 770, I seriously worry that you'll be reading books in braille in 15 years.

NB: this is a comment on what the use of screens does to your eyes, nothing more...
posted by rhymer at 11:33 AM on July 10, 2006


Grumblebee: Is there any way to hack into the pdf and convert it?

You need Acrobat Professional. You can open any PDF and just click "Save As" and select rtf or html any other format. There are a ton of other things you can do in Acrobat Pro that you can't do in the free version. Seriously: invest in Acrobat Pro.
posted by mattbucher at 11:48 AM on July 10, 2006


Wait, it's $450. Just get the free trial version of Acrobat Pro and convert like crazy for 30 days.
posted by mattbucher at 11:51 AM on July 10, 2006


When monitors get to 300dpi, particularly the e-ink types, the screens will look exactly like paper.

Totally untrue. Monitors emit light, paper reflects it. Thus, monitors don't match the ambient lighting in the room; they don't match the light level, composition, gradients, etc. This is why dedicated ebook devices are sometimes based on LCD displays, or more recently, sony's "e-ink", which reflect.
posted by gsteff at 11:52 AM on July 10, 2006


Along these lines, In The Road Ahead, Bill Gates talks about his attempts to create a digital wall in his house for artwork, but says he gave up for this reason; the display technologies available then (1995) just didn't look realistic, no matter what the price, and no matter how far away they were viewed from (in other words, resolution wasn't the problem).
posted by gsteff at 12:06 PM on July 10, 2006


There's another difference between eBooks and print books. (link to my blog.)
posted by grumblebee


e-Books have that too - scroll bars.
posted by Happy Monkey at 12:08 PM on July 10, 2006


e-Books have that too - scroll bars.

it's not really the same, though, when the entire content of the novel is dumped into a single html or txt file with no genuine page divisions. i guess acrobat alleviates that problem somewhat, but... acrobat is horrible.
posted by jimmy at 12:16 PM on July 10, 2006


Good point about emissive vs. reflective displays. Don't forget about transflective displays either, which combine emitted and reflected light. I was speaking more to pixel density. At 300dpi, the screen denisty matches what comes out of a laser printer.

Along the lines of Gutenberg, as a mental exercise, some friends and I tried to measure the cultural output of the human race.

We came up with 200 terabytes to store every book, periodical, sound recording, and motion picture. We didn't include games or the internet.

If anyone is interested I can post the calculation.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:28 PM on July 10, 2006


I'd like to see it, for one. I'm sure that 200TB is very compressible. Also...no paintings or sculpture or architecture?? ;)
posted by vacapinta at 12:35 PM on July 10, 2006


Ok, vacapinta, I'll post it in a few minutes.

Also, 200TB is audio in lossless format and video in DVD format. Regarding paintings, etc. To the extent they are photographed, they are included in books. I don't know how else to quantify the information content of a sculpture.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:42 PM on July 10, 2006


I love reading books on my old Palm IIIc. I use the Weasel Reader.

zTXT compressed files take a fraction of the space than uncompressed files. Autoscrolling is awesome, but I most often just use the up/down scroll key, or tap the screen for a page turn - pages often have varying amounts of white space and page breaks, rendering autoscrolling somewhat moot. The arbitrary screen rotation option is awesome, too.

I love paper books, still, but they're nowhere near as portable. I often find myself reading multiple books, and it's nice to be able to switch back and forth at will wherever I am without carrying a stack of 10 books around.

Finding contemporary books in etext is a hassle, though. There are more and more sites specializing in "bootleg" etext files, most of them overseas. The quality can be iffy. Bad OCR scans abound.

While there are options for converting PDFs into PDC, PDB, PRC or zTXTs, reading books in PDF or HTML at the computer just sucks, and defeats the purpose entirely. And Acrobat is a terrible blight on the land, let's not even go there.

But since the market won't give me what I want, I don't have any problem making what I want or finding it for myself. Every single etext I've ever read I've already owned the paper copy of, bought either new or used. It'd be nice if all of my paper copies included a DRM-free electronic copy. I'd certainly read even more than I do now.
posted by loquacious at 12:52 PM on July 10, 2006


Also, 200TB is audio in lossless format and video in DVD format.

that's a ridiculous estimate. i've downloaded over 150 tb of pirated material through bittorrent (most of which are lossy mp3s and xvid rips), and have come nowhere near breaching the entire cultural output of the human race.
posted by jimmy at 1:00 PM on July 10, 2006


Ok, here it is. We played with the math faster and looser than I remembered, andsome of the factors are arbitrary, and while the audio is compressed, the video is not (it is not HD quality though). Also, the database are more Anglo-European centric than I thought. In any case, I think we overestimated, rather than underestimated.

Also, this conversation began as someone discovering the DCP comics torrent for the first time, so that's why it starts from there. It also does not include archiving the internet. The 2001 Yahoo article below suggests 100 terabytes, but blogging, flickr, and youtube among others render that number out of date.

I'd be interested in running this more rigorously if someone could provide some better information about data warehouse sizes, compression schemes, etc. I was thinking about making this into a metafilter project.

Thinking about this reminds me of the Library of Babel.

Sorry for the derail, mattbucher. Good fp post.

.....

1 month's worth of comics = 1GB < - that's the current dcp monthly file size. let's assume that it was always this big (it wasn't, comics were shorter, had fewer colors or were black & white, any of which would make the files considerably smaller, but whatever.) 60 years of comics x 12=720 months=720 gb to archive all comic books ever made. sounds big, right? make it an even 1000 gb, or 1 terabyte. now add to this the following: itunes has 2 million songs x 5mb per song=10,000,000 mb=10000 gb=10 terabytes for music. netflix has about 20,000 dvds x 4gb per dvd=80 terabytes for movies according to a href="http://ask.yahoo.com/20020605.html">this site: the Library of Congress's entire book and periodical collection is 20 terabytes (update it to 30 terabytes because the article is old, what the hell)

Toss in another 30 terabytes for the world's collection of historic photos (Corbis, Getty, etc) and a digital reproduction of every piece of artwork in a major museum (Corbis owns this, at least for the louvre, i believe) as well as the encyclopedia britannica, and you get a grand total:

151 terabytes. Round it to 200, because well, just because. That's 200 terabytes to archive the sum total of human creative and intellectual output.

Now read this:

http://www.inphase-technologies.com/news/500gigabit.html
It's a 1.6 terabyte drive coming out next year.

Let's say it costs $1000. You need 125 to store everything.

Now consider that hard drive capacity doubles every 1.5 years (Moore's Law). It is conceivable that in about 10 years you could buy a drive that could store all this info for $1000. In 15 years, it would be $250, so it would probably ship with a decent desktop computer.

Think about that, in 15 years, the entire Library of Congress, iTunes music and Netflix video archives could cost a mere $250 and fit on a hard drive no larger than a hardcover book.

Will it still make sense to build libraries or record stores, when everyone can have one in their house? Why not ship the entire library to everyone encrypted, and just unlock the parts you pay for?

On the other hand, why not give it to you unencrypted? You can't possibly read every book, watch every movie, or listen to every song, or even a significant fraction thereof, in a single lifetime.

So what is the value of such a library? Or are such things best admired from afar, like the horizon receding behind you as the current of modern and new culture inexorably pulls you forward into the future?
posted by Pastabagel at 1:02 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


uh, sorry, that's probably not a ridiculous estimate, although senselessly confusing my gigabytes and terabytes is a pretty ridiculous gesture on my part
posted by jimmy at 1:03 PM on July 10, 2006


You need Acrobat Professional.

Very cool. Thanks. I already have it, but never use it. Guess now I will!


e-Books have that too - scroll bars.

Just so everyone knows what we're talking about: in my blog post (linked to, above), I suggest that when you're reading a book, you're always aware of how far you are from the end. (You can feel the thickness of the pages remaining.) Whereas you don't get this feedback from an eBook.

I'm neutral about whether this is good or bad, but I do think it's profound. The difference is that between a journey with a clear destination and a journey that could end any time, anywhere.

Yes, eBooks have scrollbars (or some sort of page count), but I don't think it's the same feeling. Page thickness hits you in the guy. Due to the way scrollbars work, a scroller near the bottom of the window might mean two pages left or thirty. And if the pagecount says 197/344, I don't get the same instant (and constant) feeling of how-far-I-am-towards-the-goal.

Maybe this is just because I'm more used to paper than scrollbars and pagecounts. Maybe if I spend ten years with eBooks, those cues will feel natural. I'm not sure. And I also wonder whether this profound difference will change the way future novels are written.

When you go see a movie, you can't innately tell when it's going to end or how far you are from the end. I think most narrative artists, consciously or unconsciously, want you to know approximately where you are (of course, there are plenty of exceptions to this), so in films, they usually throw in subtle cues: theme music moving towards a finish; the final chase; the three-act structure. Novelists don't use these clues as often, because they don't need to. eBooks may change this.
posted by grumblebee at 1:04 PM on July 10, 2006


Also, 200TB is audio in lossless format and video in DVD format.

that's a ridiculous estimate. i've downloaded over 150 tb of pirated material through bittorrent (most of which are lossy mp3s and xvid rips), and have come nowhere near breaching the entire cultural output of the human race.
posted by jimmy at 4:00 PM EST on July 10 [+fave] [!]


I meant that the 200TB figure included audio and video in that format, but see the full post for what's what.

You downloaded 150 TBs? Of what?

At 15 megabits per second = 1.875 MB per second

150TB = 153600 GB = 157286400 MB

Data/bandwidth = 83886080 seconds = 23301.7 hours = 970 days to download all of that stuff. IF your network connection is 3 mbps, which is more likely, it would take 5 times as many days.

??? (please, god, let me not have screwed up the math)
posted by Pastabagel at 1:11 PM on July 10, 2006


jimmy, just saw your post after I posted mine. no worries. I actually panicked that I had my math wrong by some insane power of ten. I probably do any way. ;)
posted by Pastabagel at 1:13 PM on July 10, 2006


That's 200 terabytes to archive the sum total of human creative and intellectual output.

I guess it depends on where you set the bar for "human output". A single seismic survey of a large block can be multiple petabytes.

This article references a 1999 estimate that "the total of all human knowledge, music, images and words amounted to about 12 exabytes.". This article has some updated figures.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 2:07 PM on July 10, 2006


Anyone been able to find formats *other* than PDF here?

I enjoy reading ebooks on my Treo 600 (lets me read late without keeping the wife up with a book light) and use the TiBR reader. So I am only interested in books in PalmDoc (PDB) format. I tried "filetype:Palm" or "filetype:doc" in the search box and got nada.

manybooks has not nearly as many texts, but supplies them in a variety of formats.
posted by omnidrew at 4:02 PM on July 10, 2006


I prefer old hardbacks from abebooks - as close to the date of original publication as possible without breaking the $10-15 range. For 19th century works this usually means something published in the 1900-1940 range. They breathe authenticity and physcially transform back to a different era and time. The smell, feel, look etc.. it goes beyond mere "words". It doesn't matter if "ex-lib". or has a stain, or "owners mark" .. all the better, gives it more character (and is cheaper). I just recently ordered a 1940's book from a dealer in South Africa for $15 includes shipping (60-90 day deliver) .. can't wait, what stories this book will tell (fittingly a book about travel).

I also own a Sony Librie e-ink reader with the hacked English conversion. I've read a few Gutenberg books on it, and will use it for special occasions or whatever, but the screen is small (lots of page turning (thumb wear) and short sentences (eyeball wear)) and the background is slate gray and the font is boring and it always looks exactly the same. It's.. plastic.

----

fleetmouse, thanks for the PDF reader, Adobe reader has been a nightmare, glad to get rid of it with something small and light and fast.

Good post, good thread.
posted by stbalbach at 5:06 PM on July 10, 2006


Mobipocket is sufficient for use on my MDA, though it chokes a little sometimes (possibly due to 200mhz proc?). I find it very comfy to lounge back on my sofa, rest my iBook upon my chest, and read books via Tofu in green-on-black.

It's good that I can't afford one of these new Macs, as I would likely suffer chest burns.
posted by thedaniel at 6:01 PM on July 10, 2006


If you like Skiffy, check out the Baen Free Library


Rest in Peace Jim Baen
posted by Megafly at 6:08 PM on July 10, 2006


Why does the T.S. Eliot PDF contain 950 blank pages, and not contain all of Eliot's poetry?
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:27 PM on July 10, 2006


Tofu is seriously the best! Fuck vertical scrolling!
posted by blasdelf at 6:36 PM on July 10, 2006


Grumblebee: Is there any way to hack into the pdf and convert it?

And for anyone else who might want to convert PDFs to RTF and Word docs, or even Excel; PDF Creator from Nuance, formerly ScanSoft. Works smoothly with text but has some trouble with mixed text and graphics. It'll quickly convert your doc to PDF or make a PDF into a Word doc. You can get it with free with Nuance/ScanSoft OCR Paperport 10. $100-$200 price range I think.
posted by X4ster at 7:44 PM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]


Makedoc converts txt, html, and (i think) windows doc files into PDBs. I use it all the time for ripping txts and htmls to PDB for my Palm.
posted by loquacious at 10:26 PM on July 10, 2006


Whereas you don't get this feedback from an eBook.

I do almost all of my offline reading-for-pleasure on my laptop, in bed, and usually get through 5 or 6 books a month. More, if I feel the need for something fluffy. I've read almost exclusively onscreen for probably 8 years now. My ebook collection is somewhere north of 10,000 books now, a few thousand of which I've actually read so far, either on a screen or sometime in years past on paper.

The ebook reader programs I favor for various formats do in fact have live indicators of where you are in the book (not scrollbars). It may not be tactile, but it's entirely adequate.

I'm waiting for a true, open, multiformat, usable, well-designed paperback-sized handheld dedicated ebook reader with, say, a few gigs of flash memory and long battery life. Solar rechargable/powered, even. My dream device, particularly if you could swap out CF cards or something for removable storage, and maybe play music as well. There are a few on the horizon, so hopefully I won't have to wait too long. Already, I read text files of novels and such on my iRiver H320 on long trips, while listening to music.

Also, I loathe pdfs.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:05 AM on July 11, 2006


I read shitloads, and basically 99% of it is ebooks on my PDA. In fact I get annoyed when I read paper books these days. They're so unwieldy, don't remember your page, can't be searched and don't even have a backlight.
posted by markr at 2:38 AM on July 11, 2006


I don't have a pda, but I have a Sony Ericsson K750i. For this and many other Java enabled phones, I recommend ReadManiac.

What many ebook readers for mobiles lacked until recently was filesystem access, ReadManiac has it.
posted by mmkhd at 8:38 AM on July 11, 2006


> We came up with 200 terabytes to store every book, periodical, sound recording, and motion picture. We didn't include games or the internet.

That seems like a very small number. I know people with 2-5 tera bytes of crap on their computers, most of which falls into the categories you list. But it's hard to imagine they have copies of 1% of all movies, music, and print.
posted by ryanrs at 8:22 PM on July 11, 2006


Rhymer, the nokia 770 has a screen dpi of 225. Not bad.

And I could have sworn that "night" was "week" when I posted. It's that preview, I tell ya, tricking you.
posted by adamwolf at 9:30 AM on July 12, 2006


« Older Like VistaPrint for fundies!   |   Handicapping the midterms Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post