EBOOK: A REVOLUTION 30 YEARS IN THE MAKING

This week’s blog post features a guest writer- Mark Puterbaugh, the library’s Information Services Librarian. His post was originally an article featured in the library’s Bibliofile newsletter. As more research becomes available electronically, I feel that it is a ongoing topic of importance and decided to reproduce the article here in our library’s blog. As always, please feel free to post any comments to it below!

By Mark Puterbaugh, Information Services Librarian

With the recent hoopla at the introduction of Apple Computer’s new iPad, the future of the book has been widely discussed in the media. Will the iPad finally change the way people view electronic books and other publications? Is it as revolutionary as the iPod was for music? But, the truth is that the electronic book (ebook) revolution has been happening for quite a while. The real novelty is that they are moving to more portable devices such as the iPad and Amazon’s Kindle.

Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented the ebook in 1971. The history of the first electronic texts is fascinating and, unfortunately, beyond the scope of this article. However, the idea behind Hart’s first ebook was to provide the contents of our libraries to hundreds of millions of computer users around the world and through time. With the advent of easy access to the Internet the ebook became a standard part of the World Wide Web. Hart’s Project Gutenberg was the earliest online library of ebooks, with collections of public domain books in plain text format. It provided ease of access to many standard texts, like the King James Version of the Bible. Today Project Gutenberg has over 30,000 free ebooks in a variety of formats that can be read on the PC, the Barnes & noble Nook, the Kindle, iPod and other devices. Other projects have been launched over the years since Project Gutenberg came online in 1992. Presented here is a brief look at a few that might be of interest.

The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (http://www.ccel.org) was founded at Calvin College in 1993. It provides texts in a variety of formats, which are drawn from the classics of Christian writers. Works of Calvin, Arminius, Augustine and Luther are available in translation for the English reader. There are also Bible Dictionaries, Encyclopedias, and other reference works of value, which have passed into the public domain. The Library provides a vast resource for orthodox Christian literature and is well worth the time to explore.

ManyBooks.net is (http://manybooks.net) an eclectic collection of over 29,000 ebooks. The site uses the Library of Congress categories to group items in the collection, which can be searched by author, title, genre, or language. Look-ing at the category “Criticism” reveals 200 ebooks authored by Alexander Pope, G.K. Chesterton, H.L. Mencken and other notables. The collection of volumes is unique for the quality of the selection of author and the technical quality of the digitizing. ManyBooks.net can also be recognized for the number of downloadable formats. All the major ebook reader formats are available- Kindle, Sony Reader, the Nook, Palm, RocketBook, rtf, plain text and more.

Google Books (http://books.google.com/) has had a very controversial history. While many of its over 7 million ebooks, magazines and journals are freely available, a substantial group are still under copyright and only seen through partial views and snippets. However the over 1 million ebooks available in public domain are a substantial resource. Why is Google Books important? The collections that are in Google Books are drawn from some of the most notable libraries in the world. These include the collections from Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Michigan and over 20,000 publishers. Browsing through the collection for Biblical studies reveals titles of the International Critical Commentary, The Coptic Version Of The New Testament In The Northern Dialect, Sayings of our Lord from Early Greek Papyrus and Swete’s The Apocryphal Gospel of St. Peter. In other words this is not the standard collection of public domain offerings. The size of the collection is huge and the service also provides information for books still under copyright. However, Google Books is not easy to search. There is no standard of classification. This makes getting to the a specific item very difficult. However, the over all extent of the online collection and the project is positive. Google Books provides a huge and valuable resource for research and education.

Finally it must be noted that Warner Memorial Library offers a substantial collection of ebooks for it’s community. EBrary has a collection of nearly 50,000 volumes of currently in print academic books; NetLibrary offers about 10,000 volumes; CREDO Reference and Encyclopedia Britannica provide several hundred volumes of dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference books; PsycBooks through Ovid Online has a collection of over 300 books specifically for psychology.
Today’s university faculty and students have millions of volumes available to them from their dorms or at home. The ebook revolution is here; take advantage of it.

To learn more about Warner’s Ebook collection, watch our Ebook Collections through MyAthens video tutorial, created by Mark!

** As an addition, I would like to suggest University of Pennsylvania’s “The Online Book Page”. This site offers over 40,000 listings of free books on the internet. Access this site at http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/

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