University Libraries Contribute Digital Books to Project Gutenberg

As the Riddler always said to Batman, “Riddle me this.” The riddle today might be something like, “What Ball State University Libraries-produced digital book has been in the Top 100 for daily, weekly, and monthly downloads of ebooks from Project Gutenberg?”

Would you believe The Book of Riddles, a chapbook from 1846? This book contains riddles like “What is that which has been to-morrow, and will be yesterday?” It has been downloaded 4,444 times between when it was made available in Project Gutenberg on June 30, 2011, and July 20. (Not sure about the answer to the riddle? See the end of this article where it is revealed.)

The Ball State University Libraries are working with Larry B. Harrison of Project Gutenberg to make selected titles from the Chapbooks collection and the Historic Children’s Books collection in the Digital Media Repository available globally as e-books in Project Gutenberg.  This free online service currently offers over 36,000 free ebooks that can be downloaded to a PC, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Android, or other portable device.

Mr. Harrison and other members of the Project team, which include volunteers at Distributed Proofreaders, convert the selected books from our digital reproductions to text and html files, proofread them, and upload them in Project Gutenberg. So far 10 books from the University Libraries’ Digital Media Repository (DMR) collections have been completed:

The DMR’s Chapbook Collection currently contains digital copies of 173 books, including many items contributed by Elisabeth Ball and other ones purchased through the Martin and Helen Schwartz Fund. Chapbooks were inexpensive, small publications that often taught and illustrated moral lessons, the alphabet, math, and other educational and religious subjects. The original chapbooks are available in the University Libraries’ Archives and Special Collections.

The DMR’s Historic Children’s Book Collection includes 131 monographs published during the 19th and early 20th centuries for youth. The books feature songs, rhymes, games, fairy tales, histories, and morality tales for children.

While the ebook copies in Project Gutenberg are text only, the digital books created by University Libraries personnel for the DMR are reproduced as the originals appear. So you can see all the illustrations and other materials as well as the text when you view them in the DMR.

The University Libraries have digitized and made other early printed books and manuscripts available in the DMR, including leaves from famous Bibles, historic atlases, Reichenbachia: Orchids Illustrated and Described, and architecture books. More rare books are being digitized and will be available in the coming months, including the creation of an architecture rare book collection.

The collaboration with Project Gutenberg continues. Mr. Harrison and the team are currently working on 13 more books from the DMR collections, including American History Stories (4-volume set), Bears of Blue River, Book of Birds for Young People, and Belgian Fairy Tales. Watch to see if those climb into the Top 100 downloads in the future.

The answer to the riddle, “What is that which has been tomorrow, and will be yesterday?” is “today,” of course.   ◙

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