I’d think that the vast majority of all the serious writing ever produced exists in the form of books, yet currently there does not seem any fully satisfactory means of reading this huge accumulation of content material on the Internet.
Most of those books currently available are provided in PDF-type format, but this is inconvenient for sustained reading, especially on small-screen devices such as smartphones, and particular parts of PDFs also cannot easily be referenced elsewhere or shared. Meanwhile, closed-design Kindle-type books may not be externally linked, nor is their content generally visible to Google and other search engines. The pure HTML-type books found at Project Gutenberg and other websites either occupy inconveniently large webpages or must be split between numerous separate ones, representing chapters or sections.
Therefore, since the beginning of this year, I have been working on a project to produce a new software system aimed at avoiding these difficulties by presenting even very long books in the form of single HTML webpages, but with the individual chapters or sections hidden by default for reading convenience, but available for display at the click of a mouse. The underlying software technology represented an extension of what I had already developed for the UNZ.com website. As a consequence of my design architecture, the system is extremely fast and responsive, with even books running hundreds of thousands of words reaching your browser in just a second or two, and all subsequent operations usually being almost instantaneous. And unlike books displayed in PDF-type formats, the system should function quite well on smartphones and other mobile devices.
A few features still need to be added and my system is not yet ready for full release, but I’m making it available for initial testing and would welcome any comments or suggestions you might have at this time, obviously including problems or bugs that you notice. While developing the system, I also added over 150 million words of mostly copyright-expired books for development/testing purposes and so that people could get a good sense of the capabilities.
OUTLINE OF BOOK SYSTEM
(1) The main bookpage is located at /book/ and the boxes near the top let you display a dynamically filtered “cloud” of the available books grouped to Author or various characteristics. For example, here are the available Authors filtered by the letter “L”
If you click on “Jack London”, you’ll get a list of 49 of his books:
You can search the list using the Search box, or just scroll through it. Here’s a link to his famous book THE SEA-WOLF. It runs over 100,000 words, but with my caching system should load almost instantly:
(2) Just click a given chapter to open it up and read it. All his other books are displayed in the Sidebar.
Very large books are almost as fast and easy to read. For example, here’s Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE, which runs well over 500,000 words, but loads in just a couple of seconds:
You can open a given chapter or section for reading just by clicking it, and close it in the same way. Near the top is a Table of Contents box that allows you to see and jump to any portion of the text.
(3) The system is also very useful for research purposes, and I’ve included a considerable amount of serious nonfiction. For example, another author in the system is E.A. Ross, one of America’s greatest early sociologists, and here’s his outstanding 1914 book on American immigration issues:
You can instantly search all the books for words or combinations of words. For example, here’s a search of the Ross book for all paragraphs containing both “Irish” and “German”:
Once you have found something interesting, you can share it with others by “deep linking” to particular paragraphs:
You can also provide “deep links” to particular words or phrases:
Such links are easy to obtain by double-clicking on a particular paragraph, or holding down your mouse button (which works on mobile devices via touch-and-hold). This tints the target paragraph and opens a series of action buttons, allowing for linking or permanent cookie-based bookmarking. On a desktop browser you can also drag your mouse to highlight a portion of the text, which opens up those same buttons, allowing linking or bookmarking those particular phrases. These bookmarks can even be shared with others.
(4) An example of a fairly large and complex book is H.G. Well’s famous OUTLINE OF HISTORY, which runs hundreds of thousands of words, and includes a large number of footnotes, illustrations, tables, and chapters. Despite the size, reading or manipulating the work should be very fast and manageable, even on a smartphone:
As an extreme example, here’s the entire multi-volume text of Edward Gibbons’s DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, which runs over 1.5M words:
As another extreme example, here is Hubert Bancroft’s gigantic five volume 1874 review of the history and culture of the Amerinds of the Pacific Coast and Central America, also running 1.5M words, which might perhaps contain more information on the topic than possessed by any living scholar, but has not been previously available on the Internet in any convenient form:
(5) Books are also grouped by genre. For example, here are the “Libertarian Literature” and “Marxist Literature” sections:
Once you’re on any Author or Genre pages, you can find individual books by filtering by Title or other characteristics. For example:
(6) Although the overwhelming majority of the books I’ve currently included in the system are copyright-expired or otherwise freely available, I think this might become a very useful free distribution channel for non-fiction books on serious subjects whose sales have declined below the point at which they generate any significant continuing revenue.
Once the design and features of the system have been completed and various bugs fixed, I’ll officially release it probably along with explanatory YouTube videos providing a guided tour and survey of the numerous powerful features.
As mentioned above, I’d greatly welcome any feedback on the this initial version of the system, including bug reports and suggestions.