Skip the following three paras of gripe to get to the info on a download which cleans up Project Gutenberg texts for reader and small-screen reading.
Today I picked up a Times on the train and read about librarians confronted with a Sony Reader (only £200) They were walking anachronisms. Hello – of course you can read it in the bath (it’s a mystery to me why anybody would want to do something so uncomfortable) – just use a ziploc bag. And as for serendipity – the Web is certainly no less serendipitous than a second hand book shop with a mere couple of thousand volumes. And – uh-oh – wow! – uh-oh – free self-publishing is with us now. I can download that anthropology undergraduate’s Year 3 thesis with its own ISBN number. Great (if he’s your son).
If you’re devoted to reading off a clump of paper in your armchair then good luck to you when your eyes start going. More likely you’ll be thanking your lucky stars they invented e-readers already. You’ll chuck out all your small print and you won’t look back. And quite possibly they’ll be text-to-speech by then too.
It’s okay to be mystified by the technology or daunted by the new ways of interacting with it – so why do so many people put forward such bad reasons to turn their noses? What is so good about a bog-standard paperback? Well a few things – it doesn’t depend on power, you can flip backand forward faster, and it can’t stop working. I don’t often hear these arguments though – all I ever seem to get though is a load of flannel which boils down to the idea of some kind of literary idyll which would be totally ruined by the intrusion of something with a battery. Pah! And if I hear anybody else say they couldn’t manage without the aroma of their book… Please. Go to Selfridges perfume section – there’s this range – they have Tyres, they have Coffee, they even have Tobacco – I am absolutely certain they have Dusty Decomposing Old Book. Put some on your top lip and shut up.
True, though, that harvesting all those liberated texts on the Web poses new inconveniences. The other month I was lamenting the hard returns in Project Gutenberg texts and suggesting a way to strip them for my iLiad iRex. Today Muteboy shared a Lifehacker featured download with me in Google Reader called GutenMark. It works on Windows, Linux and OSX and was very quick and easy to strip the hard returns out of Nietzsche’s Antichrist. OK, I confess I would have been more delirious if there had been a way to set line spacing, line length, font, margins and format of the output – but that’s probably because I’m an ingrate. Thank you very much Ron Burkey. You are a treasure.
To get the GutenMarked HTML file into PDF (I like reading in PDF format on my reader because I can scribble notes and generally interact with the text – there is a range of options, the least technical being to quickly paste into a word processor, then format in your usual Styles (e.g. 1.5 line spacing, Arial size 12, big margins to the bottom and right &tc), and then print to PDF and save/synch to the reader. Or there are instructions for the more technically savvy on GutenMark’s documentation.
I. Love. The. Web. When I die I want to be buried there. Failing that – I hear there’s a power shortage where we are – I want to be turned into biofuel and fed to the machine that serves our virtual learning environment.