There are cur­rently two things that are annoy­ing me about Wik­isource books. These are: the inclu­sion of hyper­links (to be all 1990s about it, with using that word); and the usage of straight quo­ta­tion marks.

Links I can for­give, or even actively enjoy, in non-fiction; but in fic­tion, they have no place. (So think I, any­way.) Espe­cially when they link to a sod­ding dic­tio­nary term! I know how to look up a word I don’t know. Sigh.

The curly-vs-straight argu­ment is an odd one. We only have straight ones thanks to type­writ­ers (or their man­u­fac­tur­ers, I guess) not want­ing to have two sorts for each type of quo­ta­tion mark. So why we per­sist I can­not say! No, I can say… it’s mostly to do with ease of typ­ing, on com­mon sys­tems, I think. It’s annoy­ing to type the open­ing and the clos­ing glyphs, when there’s only one but­ton on the key­board. But really! That might hold sway where there’s no auto­matic sys­tem for han­dling these things, but we have those sys­tems and they work admirably. And cer­tainly, when it comes to type­set­ting books that are going to be read by (we hope) very many peo­ple, it’s worth putting a bit more effort in to make them look nice.

Because that’s what it’s about, ulti­mately: mak­ing the text beau­ti­ful! For how many hun­dreds of years have peo­ple been tak­ing ter­rific care over mak­ing books look nice?! Let’s not give up on that.

I’m not really sure why I’m writ­ing this, today. (Prob­a­bly due to the glass of White Rab­bit I’ve just here.) It’s that I’m fir­ing with the zeal of the con­verted! I am, you see. I used to not care about quotes, and think they should be left straight — now, I stand on speak­ers’ cor­ner and holler to con­fused passersby!

So, would that ye enjoy yr ebooks?! Then set them with love­li­ness!

Right… where’s that beer…

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Mel­bourne and Mars, by Joseph Fraser.

You can­not go twenty miles in any direc­tion with­out find­ing an elec­tric foun­tain, free to the pub­lic, from which the accu­mu­la­tors of any trav­el­ling machine can be instantly recharged.

…indeed, we have no wil­ful law­break­ers any­where.

We have no hunt­ing of wild beasts; they have all been exter­mi­nated long ago. This exter­mi­na­tion has extended to ver­min and insect plagues, and even to some kinds of ani­mal­culæ. There is noth­ing that can bite, sting, or injure us in any way.

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Not enough pho­tos are taken of the under­sides of shop awnings.

This morn­ing I’m at Par­lapa, the lovely lit­tle caffe oppo­site the town hall. It’s a good place to be sat, with a slight hang­over, with some nice small Word­Press code to be work­ing on, and of course with a cof­fee. The only down side is the fact that the City wifi almost reaches here, so I’ve got the most tan­ta­lis­ing of faint sig­nals and so keep try­ing to con­nect; I should give that up, and read a book.

I’m re-reading Tolstoy’s Dic­ta­phone, which is a ter­rific book. But I’ve left it at home, un-terrifically, and so instead am read­ing Live and Let Live by Catharine Maria Sedg­wick. Only read the first two pages so far so I’ve no idea what it’s about, and any­way keep get­ting dis­tracted by typo­graph­i­cal errors (so far, all result­ing from the fact that Kobos don’t sup­port small-caps. What a joke!).

Talk­ing of small-caps, there’s move­ment at the GITen­berg sta­tion, with a project under­way to con­vert PG books to uni­code and to use proper punc­tu­a­tion char­ac­ters (for quo­ta­tion marks and dashes, at least). The idea is to use Asci­idoc, but there is no stan­dard way to express small-caps. In fact, none of the pop­u­lar light­weight markup lan­guages seem to have small-caps; what an over­sight!

So if I were with a more solid con­nec­tion, I’d try to run the punctuation-fixing scripts against one of Mr Gissing’s works. Because there’s some­thing nicer about work­ing on books as stand-alone Git repos­i­to­ries, rather than in the mam­moth uni­verse of Wik­isource and the WMF. A feel­ing that one is pro­duc­ing sin­gle edi­tions, and per­haps a num­ber of dif­fer­ent for­mats for each — and is able to give each its due atten­tion. The wikitext-as-source-format par­a­digm gets a bit tir­ing some­times, because although the HTML out­put is great, and that makes for good ebooks (well, Kobo and its small-caps-ignorance aside), I’d really like to be able to pro­duce print­able (and thus bind­able) out­put as well. Say, via LaTeX. And maybe Asci­idoc is one way of doing that.

Really, the main thing that PG is miss­ing (and GITen­berg, although it’s prob­a­bly eas­ier to rec­tify there) is the abil­ity to con­fer with the orig­i­nal source scans.

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This is a project that I’ve wanted for years, and now it’s here:

Project GITen­berg is a Free and Open, Col­lab­o­ra­tive, Track­able and Script­able dig­i­tal library. It lever­ages the power of the Git ver­sion con­trol sys­tem and the col­lab­o­ra­tive poten­tial of Github to make books more open. 

40,000 Project Guten­berg books have been uploaded to GitHub, and can now be forked, fixed, and fed back to the world’s biggest library of pub­lic domain ebooks. Other allit­er­a­tion is also pos­si­ble.

I’ve just sent my first pull request, for a typo I found in Gissing’s The Pay­ing Guest.

The only thing lack­ing now is the orig­i­nal scans of these books, so that the ebooks can be ver­i­fied against the source.

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WikiTeam has released an update of the chrono­log­i­cal archive of all Wiki­me­dia Com­mons files, up to 2013. Now ~34 TB in total.

Just seed one or more of these tor­rents (typ­i­cally 20–40 GB) and you’ll be like a brick in the Library of Alexan­dria (or some­thing), doing your bit for per­ma­nent preser­va­tion of this mas­sive archive.

From this post to wikimedia-l.

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Read­ing on an ereader, I seem to lose all of the “publisher’s meta­data”: there is no longer any hint of what type of book this is — no cover to judge, no bind­ing, no typog­ra­phy to tell if it’s a seri­ous lit­er­ary thing or a pulpy time-passer or an old for­got­ten once-loved.

It’s prob­a­bly good this way. Lets the text speak for itself. Mainly the loss harms my abil­ity to recall a book, more than the way I receive its words. No more rec­ol­lec­tion of 20th cen­tury authors as dusty orange Pen­guins with fail­ing glue. Now they sit along­side every other of any time whose sur­name begins as theirs does, or is (as arbi­trar­ily) co-alphabetically titled.

Per­haps what I’m look­ing for is a chronol­ogy of lit­er­a­ture? Vic­to­ri­ans vs. post-war makes more sense than the alpha­bet as a read­ing cri­te­ria!

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