Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bookshelf feature at Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is in my opinion one of the best sites to ever come to the internet. Committed to getting as much of the world's available public domain literature on-line for free, easy access in formats even the dumbest computer can manage? I'm there! But with a project as vast as this one comes the issue: how to find the good stuff? Easy enough if you're looking for something in particular and can use the search feature. But what about if you just want to browse?

Enter the Bookshelf, a new-ish browsing tool I hadn't much used until my sudden interest in periodicals had me scouring the depths of PG once again. I find I get cleaner files if I run the conversion myself on HTML files, especially where graphics are concerned as with the periodicals, so I was returning to PG again to dig up some source files.

I was in luck! There was a special bookshelf for periodicals that listed every title available. I didn't need to wade through every issue of every title. I could just see what there was, then click on any entry for a list of issues available. The ones published in volumes as opposed to issues were even grouped by volume so you could see at once which were the complete sets!

Other bookshelf lists are grouped thematically. Canada has a list of books about Canada, grouped into categories like history and biography. Other countries are available too. Detectives has a range of detective fiction, grouped by author and sorted by author's year of birth. Archaeology is sorted by the continent each work is discussing.

There are probably not 100% comprehensive lists. Are there detective stories in PG's vast archives which are not listed, yet or at all, in the bookshelf. Undoubtedly. Are there groups of works which lend themselves to the Bookshelf treatment but haven't had it yet? Probably. But if you just want to browse, the Bookshelf is certainly a better bet than browsing through every title in PG, one by one. And you are sure to find some suitable content, no matter what you're looking for.

Here are some bookshelf categories which intrigue me particularly:

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