GITenberg

This is a project that I’ve wanted for years, and now it’s here: https://gitenberg.github.io/

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.

Wiki Wednesday

Because I never make the time elsewhere to get anything done, I have decided to schedule in an hour or so — just a tiny bit of time, but regular (and here I am, for the second time) — every Wednesday afternoon at the local library, to focus on Wikimedia stuff. Not that I’m very active, and who knows if I’ll succeed in getting anything done; but I’d like to. There’s a whole number of things I want to work on. This plan for QR codes in Freo is spurning me on for one, but today it’s just Geffrard that I want to focus on…

The Geffrard was a ship that sunk south of here in 1875, and my great-great-great-uncle was her master at the time. We (my mum and me, that is; she’s become rather a dedicated genealogist in the last year!) are gathering more and more sources, and soon there will be enough to write something up (whether notable or not, I dunno). Right now, we’re transcribing the inquiry into the shipwreck on Wikisource. So I’ll get cracking on with that…

* * *

Power point in the Freo library with a sign hanging over it prohibiting use for personal equipmentExcept! :-( Except that the library’s wifi seems to be failing me, and (worse) my battery is flat and this place doesn’t provide a single power point for laptops. I think that’s a shame. I mean, I know there’s some arguments around about libraries being places for books, and quiet reading, and whatnot… but really, I’d far rather they were places of general learning and exploration and intellectual inquiry and… well, y’know… all that. It seems that a library full of laptops (and this one, tonight, is just that; I counted eight just now when I went looking for power) is a pretty great thing; certainly on a par with a library full of noisy children (and this one is also that). So, are they just looked on as ‘distractions’? Or we don’t want the place filled up for twelve hours a day with pauper uni students looking for free wifi and some warmth? Or is there some OH&S ruling lurking somewhere? If I had my power cable tested and tagged, would that let me in?! Surely, nerding it up in libraries should be encouraged — it’s far cheaper, if nothing else, than the library service supplying all of these computers itself.

Anyway, don’t let me rant on about that. I’ll get back to preparing some scans of our captain’s Masters Certificate for upload to Commons, and I’ll be back next week with a full battery!

Brewster Kahle on the Internet Archive

We offered unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, for ever, for free — to anybody who has something to share that belongs in a library.

Brewster Kahle, Entertainment Gathering Conference 2007 (republished as a TED Talk). The above quote is at 14:19.

The crux of it is of course “something that belongs in a library”. If one has something that could conceivably be held in a library, then there should be a library in which it can be held; the Internet Archive is one possibility.

20 million books in my library

I really like digital, online, libraries. Like Wikisource and Project Gutenberg. They make me feel like I’ve got a huge personal library, that I can delve into whenever I feel like it. They’re not quite as good as, say, Chifley, from the point of view of strolling calmly along the stacks and discovering something exciting and new quite by chance… but then, there isn’t the satisfaction in a big library, of (once one’s found something exciting) reading absolutely-everything-else-that-author-wrote!

So I like helping add to these libraries — mainly Wikisource, because it’s easier and I like the page-by-page comparison of the scanned and digital texts — because I feel like I’m adding to my own library. Which is exciting, because then I’ve got more to read (and there’s no big library around here).

http://openlibrary.org/

Turning Over an Old Leaf

So here I am, back in the office, and bored again.

I have spent the morning trawling the Arts Full Text database; from the ‘Notebooks’ category, to ‘Reading and Books’, and thence to things about binding, I’ve been remembering that thrill of quiet, sparse, precise, personal times in libraries, with books and a notebook. Nicholson Baker wrote about transcribing to commonplaces (which is pretty much what I see this blog to be). Then an essay about reading aloud caught my attention, and I wondered where my final, aborted, art school woodwork project would be now, had I ever finished it. It was going to be a lectern, not large, but heavy, and built with old wood and all treenailed joints (even the dovetails were pinned through; I can’t remember why). A thing to own only if one never wished to move house again, I think.

In reading these writings about reading, and they were mostly a half dozen pages or so, I missed a thing from books: pages. I like turning pages, strange as that may sound: each page turned is a milestone (or, really, more like a yard-stone, if such a thing has ever existed; maybe in Huysmans’ journeys to the grog cabinet in Là-Bas they did), and forms some sort of ‘meta-rest’ — a pause in reading never intended by the author, but imposed by the printer; a gap resolved only from the book-ness of the text. On a screen there is no such thing — try reading a Project Gutenberg text on-screen, and you quickly get disoriented by the endless down, the ‘single page’ that has turned a book, a codex, into a perverse scroll that is longer than any that ever kept at Alexandria. I’ve heard that some of these so-called eBooks solve this problem by necessitating some sort of swiping gesture along the device’s margin to turn the page, but I doubt it’s the same. I love turning to a long-shut page in an old book and feeling the binding adjust and fold and present the folio, the sewing showing sometimes, and the hollow back opening smoothly. Running one’s finger down the fold, to confirm that this is where I’m reading, that though there may be much past and much to come, this page is now. (Of course, these remarks rarely hold true for a perfect-bound book: but maybe some people get satisfaction from breaking the backs of these wretched modern bricks, or in not being able to open them properly. I don’t know.)

Now it’s lunchtime, and I’m going to walk through the rain to find some lunch somewhere. With luck, a place in which reading will fit. I’m reading a novel by William Gibson at the moment, so maybe the rotten ‘mall’ will do, as at least there I’ll be out of the rain (and out of the office; I’m not particularly enamored with this place at the moment, and am thinking of quitting).

Co-operation is better than Conflict

Working at the co-op set me thinking (and chatting with a few people) about how utterly enjoyable is work that we do from a sense of love. Fabulous! After a few hours at the co-op I went to the library to continue with Bachelard. I am finding him hard-going, but every so often bits emerge that somehow strike me, and enter my being as worthy of notice. Whilst sitting in the (annoyingly modern and noisy) library I enjoyed greatly the quiet and stillness that came with the simple act of reading. It is partly this experience that is prompting me to work further with bookbinding. (And oh how much nicer to read is a book that opens properly — i.e. sewn, not perfect bound?!)