Ebooks are a mess

Was reading Tim O’Reilly’s comment that ebooks, especially EPUB ones, are essentially web pages which have been locked away from the web. I wish they would just converge already so there will be some findable authoritative editions. My own experience of ebooks lately has been about pain, largely to do with bad metadata. Two projects this week: looking for Thomas Hobbes’ translation of Thucydides, and looking for a copy of the Koran.

Hobbes’ translation was done in the 17th century. It’s definitely out of copyright. There’s a version in Early English Books Online, which I try not to use because I’m offended that it’s so expensive that only about two dozen libraries in the country can afford it. There’s a version at the Online Library of Liberty, which looks to have been directly ripped from someone else’s scan and completely conceals where it comes from. Google Books has part of it, volume eight of Hobbes’ complete works, but I spent half an hour trying to figure out whether they had volume nine. There’s also an 1823 edition, but they’ve maddeningly regularized the spelling. Also, I can have a PDF or I can have EPUB based on an annoyingly bad OCR job. Internet Archive seems to have it, but again I can’t tell whether they have all of it or not. Elapsed time: forty-five minutes. Kindle edition, elapsed time fourteen seconds. Except that it’s the same version in Google Books.

Failing OCR, which doesn’t work terribly well on older books, I need to be able to put the details of particular editions into my searches and have them work. A little help here?

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cstrauber

Boston area academic librarian and instructional designer. News junkie. Fan of marine mammals, October.