Digital Collections on English Literature
Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org)
Project Gutenberg originally started 1971 as a personal project by Michael Hart, who as a student in the University of Illinois, was allowed unlimited access to Xerox Sigma V, mainframe computer. Hart planned to “give back” the favour by doing something great in the service of mankind. So he decided to digitize and make available 10,000 most read books to the public by the end of the 20th century. That he was conscious of his project as an epoch-making event is evident from the title of the project, which seeks to relate itself with another epochal event that started with the introduction of movable printing machine by the fifteenth century German printer, Johannes Gutenberg. The first text that was to be digitized by Hart was United States’ Declaration of Independence.
With the rapid technological developments in computer science from the 1990s or so, many volunteers came forward to support the project actively and many organisations contributed financial assistance. Pietro Di Miceli, an Italian supporter, built the first website of the Gutenberg Project. When the Project went online, consciousness about it very grew rapidly and it went on to win a number of awards. Among many of its recent developments is its conscious decentralisation, which has been done, first of all, to avert server mishap and loss of data of a single location and secondly perhaps to spread the project worldwide. The project is now hosted in many countries on different servers.
According to the report in the Gutenberg site, till 15 April, 2008, the Project made 25,000 texts available online, and a “grand total of over 100,000 titles are available at Project Gutenberg Partners, Affiliates and Resources” (Project Gutenberg, 2008) The collection consists mainly of copy-right-expired e-tests of western literature: novels, poetry, short stories and dramas. Besides this, it also collects reference works, cookbooks and periodicals along with some audio files and music notation files. The e-texts are mainly produced in the English languages, but there are many titles in other languages like French, German, Finnish, Dutch and Spanish. The e-texts are available in many formats as the Project is aimed at reaching the widest possible readers and volunteers, “to bring eBooks to our readers in as many formats as our volunteers wish to make.”
As the sole mission of the project is “To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks”, it invites ‘volunteering’ in the following fields: “Distributed Proofreaders”, “Provide missing pages” and “Promote Project Gutenberg on your website”. Anybody can join the project and participate in making this global library richer.
Access: Accessing the e-materials of the library is very simple. The user can perform a simple search by using words against an author and a title. Advanced search option is also there where the user is required to provide as many search-terms as possible. It also offers the options of browsing the ‘Catalog’ and the ‘Bookshelf’.
Bartleby.com: Great Books Online (www.bartleby.com)
Bartleby.com: Great Books Online started as “personal research experiment” by Steven H. van Leeuwen in 1993 on the website of Columbia University. It was named “after the humble character of its namesake scrivener, or copyist” of Herman Melville’s short story as Leeuwen was inspired by the concluding line of the story: “Ah Bartleby, Ah Humanity”. The first book it published on the Web was Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. In 1997 it was rechristened as “The New Bartleby Library” and moved to its own domain: www.bartleby.com and functioned as a non-profit organisation. But in December 1999 Bartleby.com incorporated with Steven van Leeuwen as the Chairman and CEO and with John Kibler as the Director.
The mission of the company now is to publish “the most up-to-date collection of reference works, as well as classic works of reference, fiction, nonfiction and verse—all free of charge for the home, classroom and desktop of each and every Internet user” (Bartleby.com). On one of the best user-friendly interfaces it offers a vast collection of full-text literary works on English and American literatures, classical Greek and Roman literary and philosophical and historical works and works of some of the best known modern European writers like Maupassant, Moliere, Victor Hugo, Goethe, Schiller, Turgeniv, Tolstoy and so on. Interestingly, it offers the The Bhagavad-Gita and the ‘Koran Chapters’ and Buddhist writings online. Besides, its collections of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, it also provides, in collaboration with the reference publishers like Columbia University Press and Houghton Mifflin, instant access to Columbia Encyclopedia (Sixth Edition), American Heritage Dictionary (Fourth Edition), Roget’s II: The New Thesaurus, American Heritage Book of English Usage, Simpson’s Contemporary Quotations, Bartlett’s Familiar Quatations, King James Bible, Oxford Shakespeare (the whole corpus) and so many other reference materials.
Access: The user-oriented special interface offers a variety of methods for searching the database. The user can browse categorically verse, fiction, non-fiction and reference, together with author, subject and title indexes. Again, it offers a special set of indexes to certain particular works, such as the King James Bible, the World Factbook and the Oxford Shakespeare. Even the user can browse through the cross-linked texts, which are provided chapter by chapter with the option of searching by key words between these works. In addition to all this, the homepage provides daily updates on particular a poem, a quotation, a biography and a definition.
The Oxford Text Archive (http://ota.ahds.ac.uk)
Founded in 1976 by Lou Burnard, the Oxford Text Archive is a “repository of digital literary and linguistic resources for research and teaching” and functions “to identify, collect, and preserve high-quality, well-documented electronic texts and linguistic corpora, which it then makes available to others.” It is funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee, the Oxford University, the Arts & Humanities Research Board, Computing Services. Although access to certain texts is restricted, it offers huge resources on English literature with a spectrum of services to the end-users:
i. Access to an extensive collection of high-quality electronic texts, reference works, and linguistic corpora
ii. Expert advice on text preparation
iii. Professional documentation and cataloguing of texts
iv. Standardized encoding of core texts
v. Expert information on text availability
Anybody can deposit texts with this archive and may contact by email at email@example.com.
Access: The site offers the options of searching through the OPAC and through a customised Google search box. However, the user must write in his/her e-mail address before accessing a text. Once that is done, a link to download option is provided. Access to some texts is restricted, and those can be accessed by filling out a form and registering and sometimes contacting the depositors for permission.
Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org)
Internet Archive was founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle as a non-profit organisation for “offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format” (Internet Archive, a). Kahle’s grand vision behind this project can be gauged from the slogan: “Universal Access to all Knowledge”. Headquartered in the Presidio, a former US military base in San Francisco, the Internet archive has started to grow from late 1999 in gigantic pace to become the largest digital archive of the world. The digital library offers “snapshots of the World Wide Web”, software, movies (118,299), live music concerts (49,548), audio recordings (258,882), and books (412,337). It offers forums for who can join it and get the virtual library card for accessing the resources and posting in the forums. As of 23 May, 2008 it has 594890 members.
To ensure massive access at a time and avert any accident, the archive is mirrored at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (
http://www.bibalex.org) in Egypt. Internet Archive is a member of the Open Content Alliance (discussed later) and runs an open library which offers free access to 412,337 scanned copies of books (as of 17th May, 2008). The collection is categorised under names of the contributing libraries: American Libraries, Canadian Libraries, Open Source Books, Project Gutenberg, Biodiversity Heritage Library, Children’s Library, Additional Collections. It would have been convenient for users, had there been subject-wise categorisations. But the search options are powerful enough to retrieve any title from the collections.
Besides the open library service, it runs another programme Archive-It system which can be called a digital library of the entire web. As the FAQ declares,
“…(it) allows people to visit archived versions of Web sites. Visitors to the Wayback Machine can type in a URL, select a date range, and then begin surfing on an archived version of the Web… The Internet Archive Wayback Machine can make all of this possible.” (Internet Archive)
In the same way if any page or site has been removed from the web and the browser returns ‘404’ “Not Found” error, it may be possible to retrieve the page or site from the Machine through 85 billion” archived web pages. In order to do so, the user needs to log on to www.petabox.org and type the URL and perform search by selecting appropriate category. To store huge data over the net, the Wayback Machine (a special kind of server) was created by the Internet Archive staff originally “to safely store and process one petabyte (a million gigabytes) of information.” (Internet Archive, b)
However, using content from Alexa Internet (www.alexa.com), the Machine, which has 3 petabytes storage capacity, has archived “85 billion web pages” (Internet Archive, c) amounting to more than 2 petabytes of data.
Access: Access to the resources of this site (or the collection of sites) may seem at first difficult, but gradual familiarity makes it very simple and intuitive. The simple interface deceptively hides the huge resources, which can be retrieved (read online, copied or downloaded via FTP) by using the navigational hyperlinks and search options. Besides, simple keyword searches, it also offers elaborate advanced searches. The user can either access data as an anonymous user or register as a member by joining it.
The Perseus Project (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu)
The Perseus Project, created and maintained by the Department of Classics of Tufts University is a digital library offering primary (texts, 489 titles) and secondary (critical writings, 112 titles) resources on classical Greek and Latin writers and Renaissance English writers (mainly Marlowe and Shakespeare), Bolles Collection on the evolution of the city of London and other resources . Funded by a number of organisations like Digital Libraries Initiative Phase II, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services,, the project was begun in 1987 and went online in 1995 with the goal “to bring a wide range of source materials to as large an audience as possible.” The project functions with the anticipation that “greater accessibility to the sources for the study of the humanities will strengthen the quality of questions, lead to new avenues of research, and connect more people through the connection of ideas.”
A common criticism against this library has been that it suffers from “frequent computer hardware problems, and as such its resources are often unavailable.” (Wikipedia) Recently, it has embarked on Perseus 4.0 phase with hardware and software upgrades for better access and service.
Access: Perseus offers 16 tools for browsing and accessing the resources like Art & Archaeology Browser, Atlas Tool Collection Viewer English Index. Besides these, it has a comprehensive search wizard, which offers categorical access to the resources.
The Camelot Project (http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/cphome.stm)
Sponsored by the University of Rochester, this database is “designed to make available in electronic format a database of Arthurian texts, images, bibliographies, and basic information.” The project—designed by Alan Lupack, Director of the Robbins Library, and Barbara Tepa Lupack—started operation from 1995. It provides Arthurian texts produced right from Geoffrey of Monmouth till Tennyson. Not only this, certain lines the texts include links to paintings. The interface provides varied search options and links to other similar projects and scholarly resources. Under the menu “RELATED SCHOLARLY PROJECTS” the user can access other three sub-domains of the university with three similar projects and a database on medieval English poetry:
i. The Robin Hood Projects: It provides “in electronic format a database of texts, images, bibliographies, and basic information about the Robin Hood stories and other outlaw tales.”
ii. The Medieval Alexander Project: The purpose of this project (under construction) is to show to the representation of Alexander the Great in Medieval Literature and Culture.
iii. TEAMS Middle English Texts :This is an attempt at making “available to teachers and students texts which occupy an important place in the literary and cultural canon but which have not been readily available in student editions.”
iv. The Cinderella Bibliography :This site tries to record the complex representations of Cinderella in literature, arts and popular culture. The site also lists a number of projects done by the students of the university under the menu
“University of Rochester Student Projects”
Access: At the very first sight the search options seem very complicated; but once the user tries them, s/he gets very easily adapted to it. The first option “Search the Camelot Project” supports simple and advanced Boolean search. Besides this, it has three categorised options: Main Menu, Author Menu and Artist Menu. Under these menus, the site provides the options of entering various projects, resources and information through in-built customised search options.
Luminarium ( http://www.luminarium.org)
This digital library also started as a personal project, more interestingly by a woman, Miss Aniina Jokinen, who—unlike many others sceptical and critical about the advent of the Web and the Internet— anticipated well their promise as a medium and means for English literature more than a decade ago. After creating a number of separate sites, she understood the need for uniting them under an umbrella organisation. The name ‘Luminarium’ was chosen, because she “wanted the site to be a beacon of light in the darkness”. Consistent with the creator’s dream of making “luminaries” of English literature available on the web, it offers a huge collection of works of the major writers under the four conventional categories: Medieval Literature, Renaissance Literature, 17th Century Literature, Restoration & 18th Century. Interestingly, this library has a collection of the writings of Elizabeth I. Besides these, the user can also find some resources on “Contemporary Women Writers” like Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison, Arundhati Roy, Amy Tan, Alice Walker, and links to “Irish Literature, Mythology, Folklore and Drama” at the bottom of the homepage. However, users can find more specific categorisations in pictorial headings on top of the site. The site not only provides the e-texts, but also offers illuminating essays on the authors, particular texts and specific topics from the texts, list of additional resources and discussion forums on certain authors.
This digital library is different from other libraries in that it tries to provide “multimedia experience in the periods”, with background music befitting a genre or an author or a text and with pictures of the authors and illustrations of literary themes by famous painters. The reader can also find resources on and links to representations of the authors and their texts on the television and the cinema. In fact, the interface of the site and author-specific pages are carefully designed to give some sort of experience of the times with the help of visual representations.
Access: Since the site depends mainly on OPACs, access to this library is very simple and easy. It presents links to the materials under well-organised headings and sub-headings. Sometimes a link may take the user to a different library, where the material is available. However, in the middle of the homepage, it offers a custom Google search option, using which the user can search either Luminarim or the web. Just under this, there is another option “What’s New at Luminarium”, using which the user can access the new updates and new additions and new announcements.
EServer.org: Accessible Writing (www.eserver.org)
The EServer was founded in 1990—originally as “The English Server”, by a group of students on the network of Carnegie Mellon University for the purpose of communicating among themselves, and from 1991 it began functioning as a digital library providing free access to the resources via FTP, telnet and Gopher. Within a few years it established itself as a significant internet archive.
EServer.org is a user friendly digital library on varied topics relating to English literature such as— art/architecture, cultural logic, cultural theory, cyber/tech culture, drama, early modern culture, 18th century, feminism, fiction, film and television, gender/sexuality, Marxist literary criticism, music and so on. It is clear from the description that the collections are varied and, it must be said, not comprehensive. But the EServer publishes seven scholarly journals.
Access: Access to this library is dependent on the links and hyperlinks provided on the home page and other pages.
The Labyrinth (http://www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/library/me/me.html)
The Labyrinth is an excellent resource on Old English and Medieval periods. Sponsored by Georgetown University and hosted on the server of the University, it provides “organised access to electronic resources in medieval studies”. In addition to the electronic versions of the medieval texts of English literature, the user can find interesting information categorised as ‘Archaeology’, ‘Architecture’, ‘Armor’, ‘Byzantine’, ‘Cartography’, ‘Chivalry’, ‘Coins’, ‘Cookery’, ‘Cosmology’, ‘Crusades’, ‘Furniture’, ‘Gardens’, ‘Magic and Alchemy’, ‘Transportation’, ‘Travel’ and ‘Women’ to name a few.
In the same vertical link-menu, the user can find a link to “Old English”, which leads to a different page dedicated to Old English literature. Major manuscripts and texts like Beowulf and Judith, The Junius Manuscript, The Exeter Book, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, The Laws of Alfred and Ine, The Runic texts (under development), The liturgical texts ( from the DILS Project) are available along with some reference works. Deborah Everhart and Martin Irvine are the Co-Directors of the project.
Access: As the website claims, “Labyrinth’s easy-to-use menus and links provide connections to databases, services, texts, and images on other servers around the world.” The user can either navigate through links or perform simple and advanced search operations. It also provides option to search through Argos (http://argos.evansville.edu/), “a limited area search engine of resources pertaining to the ancient/medieval world (including the Labyrinth)”. Finally, the user can find at the bottom of every page, Ariadne’s thread (http://www.georgetown.edu/labyrinth/info_labyrinth/ariadne.html), using which the reader can come back to the home page very easily.
The Romantic Circle (http://www.rc.umd.edu)
The Romantic Circle is a “refereed scholarly Website devoted to the study of Romantic-period literature and culture.” Published by the University of Maryland and “supported, in part, by the Maryland Institute of Technology in the Humanities (MITH), and the English Departments of Loyola University of Chicago and the University of Maryland”, it started offering free access to varied resources on Romanticism from 1996. The interface is designed in accordance with the name of the site and the resources are categorised in circles, featuring: About RC, Electronic Editions, RC Blog, Scholarly Resources, Pedagogies, Reviews, RC MOO.
The Romantic Circles Electronic Editions offers a searchable archive of texts of the Romantic era, enhanced by technology made possible in an online environment. Each edition is based on the highest scholarly standards and is peer-reviewed. The user can find some of the least known texts of the period long with some of the known texts, for instance,
i. The Fall of Robespierre by Samuel Taylor Coleridge & Robert Southey,
ii. The Temple of Nature by Erasmus Darwin
iii. Alroy by Benjamin Disraeli
iv. British War Poetry in the Age of Romanticism edited by Orianne Smith
v. The Wanderings of Cain by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
The site also offers online editions of 33 original critical works (edited volumes of esssays) on Romanticism. For instance, the reader may read Romanticism and Buddhism (February 2007), Romantic Gastronomies (January 2007), Sullen Fires Across the Atlantic: Essays in Transatlantic Romanticism (November 2006)Romanticism and Patriotism: Nation, Empire, Bodies, Rhetoric (May 2006) Digital Designs on Blake (Jan. 2005) Romantic Technologies: Visuality in the Romantic Era (Dec. 2005) Legacies of Paul de Man (May 2005) and many others. Under the section Pedagogies, this site offers free resources for teachers for Romantic studies in the classroom and under the section Scholarly Resources it provides “chronologies, indexes and other online tools for the study of Romanticism”. There is also a forum and
Access: The site offers a number of search options. The user can navigate through the OPAC or perform simple or advanced searches.
ILE started as a “joint project by the Universities of Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester and Oxford, conducted under the auspices of the eLib (Electronic Libraries) Programme.” The aim was “to digitise substantial runs of 18th and 19th century journals, and make these images available on the Internet, together with their associated bibliographic data.” For this project six journals that ran for at least twenty years, were chosen:
Three 18th-century journals
· Gentleman’s Magazine started in 1731
· The Annual Register started in 1758
· Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society started in 1660
Three 19th-century journals
- Notes and Queries started in 1849
- The Builder started in 1843
- Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine started in 1817
According to the statement: the six titles were chosen according to the following criteria:
- “perceived user demand in the United Kingdom higher education sector.
- wide subject range, covering science and technology as well as the arts.
- diversity of typefaces, print and paper quality.
- diversity of article formats and page size.
- use of illustrations (line-drawings and half-tones).
- availability of copies in the consortium libraries.”
The project finished in 1999, and “no additional material will be added.”
Access: Search options offered by the site are somewhat complex and patience must be your companion. It offers Boolean search (AND ad OR) for full text, author index and title index. Interestingly, it offers truncation facility (by using ‘*’). The user can search by typing in a word or phrase in one or both boxes and pressing the “Search” button.
The Online Books Page (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu)
The Online Books Page aims to facilitate “access to books that are freely readable over the Internet” and “to encourage the development of such online books, for the benefit and edification of all.” As of May 13, 2008, it boasts of possessing over 30,000 books on various subjects, including over 1800 titles from English literature. It was founded by John Mark Ockerbloom in 1993, when he was a student at Carnegie Mellon University with Web space and computing resources provided by the School of Computer Science. In 1999, it moved to University of Pennsylvania Libraries (
http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu). This digital library provides manifold services to the users under the following categories:
· An index of thousands of online books freely readable on the Internet (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/lists.html)
· Pointers to significant directories and archives of online texts (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/archives.html)
· Special exhibits of particularly interesting classes of online books (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/features.html )
· Information on how readers can help support the growth of online books (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/getinvolved.html)
Besides these, it provides under ‘Serials’ a list of freely accessible archives of internet resources such as magazines, journals, newspapers, and other periodicals.
The site is also involved with two other projects:
i. A Celebration of Women Writers (http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women): Edited by Mary Mark Ockerbloom, this library digitises for users the works of women writers “throughout history” from 3000 B.C. to 20th century from all over the world.
ii. Banned Books Online (http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/banned-books.html): It lists and digitises the books –ranging from Ulysses to Little Red Riding Hood— that have been the objects of censorship or censorship attempts. It has an interesting piece of writing ‘Books Suppressed or Censored by Legal Authorities’.
The site invites users to participate actively in enriching the resources and ensuring the quality.
Access: Access to the resources of this site depends on hyperlinks and OPACs. It provides also a simple search box in the ‘Authors’, ‘Titles’ and ‘Subjects’ categories.
Representative Poetry Online (http://rpo.library.utoronto.ca/display)
Representative Poetry Online, version 3.0, offers, as of 3rd May 2008, 3,162 English poems by about 524 poets from Caedmon to some of the works of the poets of our time. The database is designed on “Representative Poetry, established by Professor W. J. Alexander of University College, University of Toronto, in 1912, and used in the English Department at the University until the late 1960s.” It went online in 1994 (December, 15) with “a historical collection of some 730 poems by about 80 poets from Sir Thomas Wyatt to Algernon Charles Swinburne” (Representative Poetry Online). The electronic founder and editor since 1994 is Ian Lancashire, a member of the Department of English, University of Toronto.
The RPO functions as an extended sub-domain of the of the main University of Toronto English Library (
http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/), which has huge electronic resources on English literature, including texts and criticism; but access to the main library is reserved for the students and staff of the university. The RPO provides open access perhaps because of the fact that after the final edition of the book in 1967, “the Department chose not to continue editing or using Representative Poetry” as it was no longer necessary for the syllabus” and, that in ”1971 the University of Toronto Press then distributed the remaining copies of the last edition throughout the then Third World” (Representative Poetry Online).
Access: The interface of the site is, to some extent, difficult to grasp at first sight. Navigation depends on three horizontal rows of bars. The first row of bars is given for various search options: “Poet Index”, “Poem Index”, “Random” and “search”. The second row provides links to ‘Timeline’, ‘Calendar’, ‘Glossary’, ‘Criticism’ and ‘Bibliography’. The third row provides links to the resources on Canadian poetry. The user can make use of the keyword Boolean search (using ‘and’ and ‘or’). Another option “Corcordance search” is also there “to retrieve a display of all occurrences of a word or part of a word in the lines of poetry.”
This digital library is “devoted to the reading, writing, and discussion of literature” with a collection of more than 2,000 books, stories, poems, plays, and religious and historical documents”. The collection includes Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali (Song Offerings). The collection is also available in CD-ROM, which can be purchased online for $19.99. The user can also participate by contributing essays and articles on free subscription basis. 4Literature is owned and maintained by Javatar LLC, a small company started by Jaret Wilson.
Access: Access to this digital library is dependent on author/title-wise OPACs.
Poetry Archives (http://www.emule.com/poetry)
Poetry Archives provides “a simple interface into a dynamically generated, database driven website archiving thousands of copyright free poems” with the exception of translated poetry. As of May 1, 2008 it has significant works of 153 poets plus some other ones by anonymous poets, who are mainly from English literature. But this site contains some works of the classical poets—like Homer, Virgil, Pushkin and Whitman—which the students are expected to be familiar with. The user can switch over to “Printable View” option of the pages for printing and better reading.
Access: The user can access the works through the OPAC provided with the link at “Classic Poets”. There is also a search box option, “limited to just the title, author and first line of each poem”.
Absolute Shakespeare (www.absoluteshakespeare.com)
Absolute Shakespeare offers the “essential resource for William Shakespeare’s plays, sonnets, poems, quotes, biography and the legendary Globe Theatre.” On a very user friendly and simple interface, it provides the whole corpus of his writings—the plays, sonnets and poems, a biography, timeline of his career, information about the Globe Theatre, representation of Shakespeare in paintings and films, summaries of his plays, students’ study-guides to his major plays and lot more.
Access: Access is dependent mainly on the hyperlinks provided with the categories. However, there is a search option for key-word search.
Renascence editions (http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/ren.htm)
This digital library offers the e-texts of “works Printed in English Between the Years 1477 and 1799”. Different editors worked for the enrichment of the resources, and now the publisher and general editor is Risa Stephanie Bear. The site, however, displays a disclaimer that the editions are not intended for scholarly use.
Access: It provides alphabetical author-wise search and Google Search.
The Internet Classic Archive (http://classics.mit.edu/)
This is an online repository of 441 works of classical writers, mainly Greco-Roman (some Chinese and Persian), like Homer, Aeschylus, Aesop, Plato, Aristotle, Epicurus, Horace, Lucretius, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Plotinus, Virgil, Hesiod, Tacitus and more. This is created by Daniel C. Stevenson, Web Atomics.
Access: Alphabetical author-wise OPAC. The search does not function.
The site offers more than 2,000 free classic texts, study guides plus research works in HTML format. It is now kept alive by ex-employees of Bibliomania.com Ltd, which stopped functioning.
Access: It has simple search, ‘+/and’ search, title/author-wise search options.
Literature.org: The Online Literature Library (http://www.literature.org)
Maintained by volunteers and sponsored by Knowledge Matters Ltd the site offers “Classic works of English literature. Fiction from authors like Lewis Carroll, the Bronte sisters (Anne, Charlotte and Emily), Jack London, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens and many others, and classic scientific works from Charles Darwin and Rene Descartes.”
Open Access Digital Libraries: New Developments in the New Century
With the turn of the new century, the digital libraries have started to focus on the ways the libraries can be made more and more user-oriented. Given the nature of access, the corporate giants like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon have descended on the scene sometimes with commercial intent, sometimes with egalitarian motive and sometimes with the purpose of outsmarting others in competition. For the reader’s convenience, I will look upon certain recent developments that surfaced on the web.
Google Book Search (Google Books Library Project) (http://books.google.com)
Google Books Library Project is an ambitious venture of Google, through which it plans to provide its global users access to out-of-copyright books from the best libraries in the world. It all started in October 2004 when Google announced a service named “Google Print” under Google Print Library Project at the Frankfurt Book Fair and in December of the same year it announced “scanning book collections belonging to the University of Michigan, Harvard. Stanford, Oxford, and the New York Public Library, so that they become more searchable” (O’Sullivan, 2004). Sources indicate that the Project aims at digitising 15 million titles within a decade. According to New York Times, as of March, 2007, it has digitised one million volumes at the ‘outside’ experts’ estimated cost of $ 5 million (New York Times 2007).
In 2005 Google changed the name of this service from Google Print to Google Book Search and the project was accordingly renamed Google Books Library Project. Since 2006 more than 15 institutional libraries with huge resources have joined the project allowing Google to scan books from the libraries. But this massive project has met with quite contrary reactions; while the general readers and some librarians have hailed the project as one of the benevolent efforts, some critics and especially some publishers—at home and abroad—have lashed out at the project and filed lawsuits against the company for copyright violations. However, Google Book Search is still in beta stage, and that is why we will have to wait to see what evolves out of all those controversies and conflicts.
Using Google Book Search: Using the Book search is similar to Google web search with the difference that it crawls up and displays retrieved results (for both author and title searches) in the forms various titles/editions in any of the four options:
1. Full View: A full-text if it is for public domain titles and if the publisher has allowed it to be so.
2. Snippet View: A small keyword in context display for books for which it does not have copyright permission.
3. No Preview: Showing only a citation.
4. Limited Preview: A three-page window containing the search query in the case of being authorized by the publisher.
It has also “Advanced Search” option, which is very elaborate and can be used to restrict search or make it accurate.
MSN Book Search (Live Search Books Publisher Program)
In October 25, 2005, just one year after Google’s announcement Microsoft announced its plans to join the online book-search movement with a new service called MSN Book Search. For this, it joined the Open Content Alliance and made “the largest contribution to the alliance to date – $5 million…enough to scan about 150,000 books” and began working with Internet Archieve and other libraries.
The MSN Book Search became operational in December, 2006 under the Live Search Books Publisher Program, offering online book-search services of both copyrighted and out-of-copyright books. The MSN Book Search interface was divided into two panes: on the left side the option to download the whole book, see snippets of text on pages; whereas on the right side of the screen was devoted to fixed reading. Microsoft did not offer zoom in or full screen options for the reading panel.
Overall MSN Book Search provided users with fewer details about the book. But since it was in beta, many people thought that in the course of time, it would change. But then May 23, 2008 came a sudden announcement from the company: “…we are ending the Live Search Books Publisher Program, including our digitization initiatives, and closing the Live Search Books site,” Satya Nadella Microsoft, senior vice president of search, announced on a company blog (Nadella, 2008). “Microsoft appears to have decided”, Nancy Gohring in New York Times wrote, “that it doesn’t want to be in the business of creating digital content, instead hoping that others will take on that task. The company will give its scanning equipment to its library and digitization partners and encourage them to continue to scan books.” (Gohring, 2008) As per Microsoft’s report, it digitized 750,000 books and indexed 80 million journal articles, and it intends “to make the scan files we created from your print book submissions available to you for free.” The new process or arrangement will be soon published.
Open Content Alliance (http://www.opencontentalliance.org)
The Open Content Alliance was formed by the Internet Archive and Yahoo! in 2005 as a broad platform to offer “broad, public access to a rich panorama of world culture”. As the FAQ declares, it has well-set aims:
“The Open Content Alliance (OCA) represents the collaborative efforts of a group of cultural, technology, nonprofit, and governmental organizations from around the world that will help build a permanent archive of multilingual digitized text and multimedia content.” (Open Content Alliance)
As of 24 May, 2008, more than a hundred organisations, universities, libraries and corporate companies have joined the alliance. As per the declaration in the site, initially it will contain collections from the following organisations: European Archive, Internet Archive, National Archives (UK), O’Reilly Media, Prelinger Archives, University of California, University of Toronto. However, any organisation can join the Alliance and contribute and donate in all possible ways. The resources collected by OCA archive will be available through the website, and Yahoo! will index them “to make it available to the broadest set of Internet users. (Open Content Alliance).
Open Library Project (http://openlibrary.org)
“One web page for every book ever published.” Thus goes the opening sentence of the description of another ambitious project conceived by Kahle of Internet Archive and headed by Aaron Swartz, the talented writer, web programmer and entrepreneur, now aged only 22. The Project was announced in October, 2005 and the beta site (
www.demo.openlibrary.org) went online in July, 2007. Swartz wrote passionately in his blog: “I’m extraordinarily proud to announce the Open Library project. Our goal is to build the world’s greatest library, then put it up on the Internet free for all to use and edit. Books are the place you go when you have something you want to share with the world — our planet’s cultural legacy” (Swartz, 2007).
As of April, 2008, the site claims to “have gathered about 30 million records (13.4 million are available through the site now)” along with “the full text of 230,000 scanned books”. And now it invites users from all over the world “to add records of digitized books to her local catalog”.
[This online survey has been conducted by Tarun Tapas Mukherjee. If you have any suggestion or find any error, contact at firstname.lastname@example.org]