Friday Bookblogging: Public Domain Edition


Welcome (after too long an absence) to Friday Bookblogging, in which we discuss Jane Austen’s books and books related to Jane Austen’s life and work.

The Scholarly Kitchen, the blog for the Society of Scholarly Publishing, has a blog post about reading Jane Austen’s novels (and other free public domain books) on Google Books.

Rather than pay for the Penguin or any other edited version of Austen, I decided to be a cheapskate and searched for free Google versions. And that’s when things began to go wrong. The Google editions were packed with errors. If I were not studying Google Ebooks for professional reasons, if I were not already familiar with the works of Austen, would I have gone on? Would I have thought that Austen does not know how to place quotation marks, that she made grammatical mistakes that would embarrass even a high school freshman, or that her dialogue sometimes breaks off without explanation? I began to wonder what service or disservice Google had performed, rendering one of the world’s most popular writers in a form as bizarre as the Zemblan translation of Shakespeare in Nabokov’s “Pale Fire.”

We’ve blogged about the problems with Google Books in the past–the OCR software seems to have problems with antique fonts.

At the fabulous high-tech AustenBlog World Headquarters, Opening Day is a national holiday (despite some weather this year that is, shall we say, not optimal). NPR’s Fresh Air has a piece about a new book on the history of baseball (which we will be purchasing very soon, though we don’t have time to read it) in which Catherine Morland’s love for “base ball”–and her opinion on history–are invoked in the very first paragraphs.

Reflecting on the appeal of history in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, heroine Catherine Morland comments, “I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.” Indeed. And in no field of American endeavor is invention more rampant than in baseball, whose whole history is a lie from beginning to end, from its creation myth to its rosy models of commerce, community, and fair play. The game’s epic feats and revered figures, its pieties about racial harmony and bleacher democracy, its artful blurring of sport and business — all of it is bunk, tossed up with a wink and a nudge. Yet we love both the game and the flimflam because they are both so . . . American. Baseball has been blessed in equal measure by Lincoln and by Barnum.

We really need to make time to read this one! Thanks to Alert Janeite Lisa for the link. And check back on Sunday for a little special somethin’-somethin’ to celebrate the beginning of baseball season here on AustenBlog!

And finally, check out this gorgeous hand-embroidered cover for a new Penguin edition of Emma (and a couple of other books, too). We know a certain correspondent at the AustenBlog West Coast Bureau who will no doubt find this of interest. (Perhaps she can whip up something for another book of which we are both very fond?) Thanks to Alert Janeite Katharine for the link.

4 thoughts on “Friday Bookblogging: Public Domain Edition

    • The weather (at least in PA) might be frightful, but spring is here for I have planted a seed!!! *waters*

      If I could crochet it, you know I would. 😉


  1. Abigail Thompson

    I love the embroidered Black Beauty cover. The Emma one not so much.

    I found a lot of errors in the girlebooks too and/or in that other free press one. There is a point to having professional editors and proofreaders.

    Like professional journalists and professional teachers (at least in PA Corbett doesn’t want to pay extra for teachers who get or have advanced degrees) professional publishing may be disappearing. Hence the need to market embroidered covers!


Comments are closed.