I tried to be a scifi nerd and use Neuromancer for this exercise, but I had to settle for War of the Worlds. Doesn’t make for the best catchy blog post title but, what are you gonna do.
Project Gutenberg offers H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds in HTML, EPUB, Kindle, Plucker, QiOO Mobile, Plain Text UTF-8, and several kinds of zip files. It can also be read online as an EBook, although it is immensely frustrating to read that way as it is formatted into chunky paragraphs requiring links to the previous or following pages. According to Project Gutenberg it is EBook #36, released in 1992 and updated in 2008. The site allows the user to create bookmarks on the “pages”. Unlike the other sites, it notes that the user “can help us produce ebooks by proof-reading just one page a day” (http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=1697601&pageno=2).
HATHITrust offers downloadable PDFs of single pages without a log-in and a full downloadable PDF for members, as well as an online view of the Bernhard Tauchnitz Leipzig edition. HATHITrust offers two dates: “1898 [i.e. 1929?]“. The online version is originally from the University of Virginia, digitized by Google Books. It allows you to search the book or jump to different sections, to render it in plain text, to share a link to the book or to a single page, to view the book in “Flip” or “Scroll” mode or with thumbnails of the pages, and create new collections of books with a member log-in. The site notes that the book is public domain in the United States, although, “Google requests that the images and OCR not be re-hosted, redistributed, or used commercially” (http://www.hathitrust.org/access_use#pd-us-google).
Google Books offers EPUB and PDF downloads with both “Flowing Text” and “Scanned Pages.” It can be read in plain text and the user can “Advance Search” the book for specific phrases. Google offered the widest variety of editions, from a limited view of a 2012 edition to a full view of a 1898 illustrated edition published by Harper & Brothers in New York. The latter came from the Pennsylvania State University Library, and has the entirety of the table of contents in hyperlinks, which was the first instance of this I noticed in browsing several editions and which makes navigation quite easy. Unfortunately the book does not offer any information about the illustrator, but it contains a frontispiece of HG Wells and a number of beautifully drawn and rendered bluish black and white images that scanned crisply.
At the end of this copy is a library binders’ mark from August 3, 1967, in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. Also contained at the end of the book was the mostly blank “Date Due” card, containing crossed out dates from 1993. Lastly, and most fun for me, there are no less than 5 scanned images of the book’s maroon back cover and bar code, two of which have the archivist’s bright pink latex glove in the corner and two of which were captured when the book was in the process of being opened and flipped over, with a black and white checkered pattern on the edge from what I am assuming is the inside cover of the book.
Google allows the user to search the book and write a review, and offers perhaps the most flexible interface with multiple page views of the book, the ability to “cut” or highlight sections of pages, and a zoom tool. The site restrictions and terms of service state that this “copy and paste” function needs to be “used within the prescribed limits and only for personal non-commercial purposes” (http://books.google.com/intl/en/googlebooks/tos.html). Google watermarks also may not be removed from the digital content.
I found Google Books to be the most versatile interface for viewing and downloading this book. While the Kindle edition I downloaded from Project Gutenberg was readable and there didn’t seem to be huge issues with it in terms of formatting, I found myself annoyed by the fact that new chapters don’t start on new pages. On all of these sites, it was hard to find information about access to these books for people with disabilities.