This last week has proved to be quite a week for the EPUB eBook format with announcements from Google, Sony and Project Gutenberg on their support for the EPUB format.
Project Gutenberg EPUB Books
Over at Project Gutenberg, Marcello Perathoner has been working hard to convert all the Gutenberg titles into the EPUB format. At this time these versions should be considered experimental, but after trying several different titles, they are all more than readable.
The books are converted where possible from the HTML version in the Gutenberg archives and for those titles without a HTML version, Marcello uses the plain .txt book. The plain .txt files at Gutenberg are notoriously inconsistent in their layout so converting these accurately is extremely difficult — I know this myself only too well. Perhaps it’s time Project Gutenberg embraced a Master Format.
What makes this special from the other news (see below) is that all the Gutenberg books go through a proofreading process and so the accuracy is very high. This is why so many other eBook project are based on the Gutenberg archives.
Google and Sony partner to release 500,000 Public Domain EPUB Books
Over the last few years Google has been scanning bo0ks by the million, making them available on their book search, but this is the first time they have any of them available to an eBook reader. All the titles are in the public domain (pre-1923 titles only) and once added to the current Sony Reader catalogue, brings the total available titles to around 600,000, far surpassing Amazon Kindle’s 240,000 catalogue. Amazon still use their own propriety eBook format and do no currently allow EPUB files to be read natively – conversion is needed first – but as the Google EPUB books all come DRM free, there are many tools out there that will allow you access to these on a Kindle or other reading platform.
Over the last few weeks several people have emailed asking if epubBooks.com has been abandoned – the answer is a resounding No! Okay, I know I’ve not been very active recently so please accept my apologies for that.
The reason for such limited activity is that I am working very hard on developing the new site for epubbooks.com – yes, the blog and current resources will still be accessible. The new site will allow you to download all kinds of different EPUB books, including many from the Project Gutenberg archives.
If you don’t know what my ePub Books Project is, here is a short summary.
The project was started to provide free downloads of nicely formatted EPUB files, the majority of which will be taken from the Project Gutenberg archives. These will not just be plain TEXT files enclosed in an EPUB container, but fully converted to XML (of a TEI flavour) which are themselves converted using XSLT into professional quality EPUB files. Here are some of the features;
- Properly formatted and displayed Chapter Titles/Subtitles.
- Footnotes which are Linkable (forward and backward) for instant access
- Books with Illustrations will also be available.
- Text Formatting (italics, etc.)
- Nice indents for block quotes, letters of correspondence, epigraphs, etc.
- …and many more features
The new web application is the biggest project I’ve developed to date and so is naturally a challenge to my programming skills, which is why it’s taking some time to complete, however things are going very well.
The basic skeleton of the site up and running and I am now working on programming for usability. Of course it’s these less obvious items which are some of the hardest things to programme, so at this time can’t give an accurate launch date. Rest assured it will be sooner rather than later.
Thanks for your patience and understanding and do keep checking back regularly for any new updates.
My first suspicions that eBooks were going to be the future was way back in the day when all those CD’s were coming out and taking over our beloved Vinyl LP, but the real light-bulb moment was when I first discovered Project Gutenberg sometime at the end of the 1990’s.
If memory serves me correctly, I even considered trying to set up an eBook site back then. I believe what stopped me was that there were just not yet any decent reading devices available – reading from a computer monitor was, and still is, the most uncomfortable experience ever.
And so the years rolled by…
Then in 2004/05 I heard about the Sony Librie and immediately knew that the eBooks’ time was coming…and soon!