Welcome to Monday Ebooks, in which the Editrix indulges her most harmless delight in ebooks.
Google announced this week that they have completed scanning mostly 19th century public domain books in Oxford’s Bodleian Library and made the full texts available on Google Book Search. Many of the books are rare first editions, such as a first edition of Emma, which in 1822 belonged to one Harry V. Lynes (at least we think that’s what it says). We previously mentioned in Monday Ebooks posts that several ways to download these books are available, including conversion from the PDF scans to other formats; but looking at the first edition of Emma (which is delightful to see in scan) and comparing the “plain text edition” (which would be the output that would be used for any ebooks produced by this service) show that the old book shows its age, and the OCR output of the scan is pretty messy. But we’re sure they’re working to improve the service all the time.
In other mobile ebook news, Project Gutenberg, a pioneer website in preserving and archiving public domain texts, is experimenting with offering its texts in ePub and Mobipocket formats; the latest Sony Reader models can read ePub, and the Kindle (and a host of other devices) can read unDRMed Mobipocket. The formats are experimental, and PG warns that the files might be buggy.
We are excited about a new device that turned up on a Russian-language ebook site last week. It’s not available yet, and first reports indicated that it would be offered by a Russian company, but now it seems that it will be sold by Bookeen, the company that makes our beloved Cybook Gen3, and can read ePub among other formats. It has a 5-inch eInk screen and looks to be about the size of an overgrown PDA. We love the idea of a smaller, more portable eInk device (though the fanboys all want giant screens, presumably to read PDFs and comic books). A really portable device like that–especially if they can get the price down around $99, which admittedly still seems unlikely–we think will really drive popularity and adoption of ebooks and ereaders.