Archive for Books

Open Access Books – UCL (University College of London)

One of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Great Britain (I know them through their now-named Centre for Water and Development), UCL Press has published dozens of academic monographs on a wide variety of topics from the papers of Jeremy Bentham (on whose principles UCL was founded) to works dealing with social media in various countries. It is worth a look.

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The First Eleven Editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica

The National Library of Scotland has digitized the above, all 231 volumes. You can trace the development of thought and what was considered important with each publishing iteration. Did you know that the original edition was actually a compilation of 100 weekly issues that were then collated? Additional information can be found here.

HathiTrust has 11th edition online.

An extensive history of the various editions can be found at the Britannica’s site.

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List of Academic Publishers Opening Up Their Collections during the COVID-19 Crisis

This ever-expanding list currently counts 80 university/academic presses that have removed barriers to part or all of their digital offerings during this time.

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The New York Times Free Ebook on Coronavirus

Answers to Your Coronavirus Questions, a 162-page ebook from The New York Times, collects some two dozen articles from the newspaper. They range from a timeline of the disease to a glossary of terms. Highly readable and informative.

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Let’s Not Forget Audio Books!

LibriVox provides more than 13,000 free readings of various works from Aesop’s Fables to Moby Dick. You can search by author, title, genre (my favorite is Nautical or Maritime Fiction), or language. All the books are in the public domain, hence no infringements for listening.

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More Free Children’s Books Online from Audible

Audible has made available for free numerous children’s books in multiple languages.  You can listen to White Fang, The House at Pooh Corner, and Bambi, among others. Access to classic works, fairy tales, and works for older children can also be freely accessed. This offer will last as long as schools are closed.

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For Harry Potter Fans!

The acclaimed audio rendition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, released in the United States as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, read by Stephen Fry in all of its nine+ hours glory, is available for free!

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Hundreds of Cambridge University Press Titles Now Available during the Crisis

Cambridge University Press has opened access to hundreds of its titles to support research during this crisis. The selections are divided into four separate categories:

Please take advantage of these wonderful tools.

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The “National Emergency Library” – Recent Free Online Books to Aid Students

The Internet Archive presents the National Emergency Library that is comprised of approximately 1.5 million volumes of primarily U.S. imprints of the 20th century. Previously access to these materials was dependent on a waitlist that could be quite lengthy; however, for the extent of this crisis, these materials are now readily accessible to all without the need to sign up on a list. All one needs to do is set up a simple account.

An informative FAQ has been drafted.

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Christmas Stories

Here you will find a collection of hundreds of volumes of stories pertaining to Christmas, some as far back as the 1840s.

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The 100 Best English-Language Novels

Divided into several categories, these novels were judged by a literary panel as to be the tomes that have shaped our world. I am gratified to see that the Jack Aubrey novels authored by Patrick O’Brian made the cut; here is an interview with this author from The Paris Review.

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Dime Novels

Calamity Jane, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill, heroines, detectives, highwaymen, sailors – all strutted through the pages of these ephemeral publications, called dime novels because of their cost. Thousands of these luridly-covered titles were produced starting in 1860, the first novel being Malaeska, the Indian wife of the white hunter, written by Mrs. Stephens. A brief but informative history of this type of work, which was a catchall phrase to describe several variants, is online; a timeline of its development is also available. A major examination of this type of publication can be found at House of Beadle & Adams Online, an electronic version of the 1950 multi-volume examination of this important publishing house for dime novels.

The largest single online collection of dime novels, over 7000 titles, is housed at Northern Illinois University – Nickels and Dimes; the site contains practically every number of Beadle’s Dime Library, totaling 1099 issues. You can search  by genre, series, or author. My particular favorite is the “sea stories” section with works authored by such luminaries as Ned Buntline and Victor Hugo.

Another large collection reposes at Villanova University – Dime Novel and Popular Literature – that also includes the precursors to dime novels. Numerous series are represented here as well as titles translated into foreign languages. It also hosts the Edward T. LeBlanc Memorial Dime Novel Bibliography an ongoing project that aims to comprehensively list all dime novels ever published. Using the menu’s full text option, you can call up more than 9,000 full text issues culled from the various online collections.

Almost 1,300 issues are digitally reproduced at the University of South Florida. What caught my eye here is the March 3, 1885 edition of the Old Sleuth Library entitled The Bay Ridge Mystery“; Bay Ridge being that part of Brooklyn where I grew up.

Over 1700 dime novel covers are found at Syracuse University.

Many of these novels are labeled romances featuring women in all sorts of guises. While many people associate these works with just the exploits of frontiersman or cowboys, nothing could be further from the truth. Women and the World of Dime Novels from the American Antiquarian Society seeks to correct this misconception and presents pertinent essays along with selected novels to buttress its argument that dime novels are not solely a male reserve. American Women’s Dime Novel Project is also a must stop, though at the time of this writing some features are not functional.

The British analog is called “penny dreadfuls“. While some of these are found in the above collections, it is but a very small sample. And I have yet to find an equivalent repository of these unique items. A few can be read here and you can find the original Sweeney Todd appearing in The String of Pearls that was serially issued in 1846/47.


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Book Lovers Discuss Their Collections

A point of transparency here – I label myself a book lover; my collection is north of 8,000 volumes. This delightful piece in The Washington Post interviews several people, including the Librarian of Congress, on their collections and their attitudes to the tomes they possess.

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The Book of Kells Is Now Online

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The Top 100 Novels of All Time

Of course this list is bound to cause arguments or disagreements, but this enumeration is based on how many libraries (as tabulated by WorldCat) have these volumes on their shelves. Overwhelmingly, the volumes are American or English, and few are what you would label contemporary (with the exception of a couple of Harry Potter titles). Each novel is placed in a genre and the number of translations of the books is also given. How many have you read? (If my math is accurate, I have read 92 of them.) A fuller list of the top 500 novels is available and can be divided by genres; see how many science fiction novels made the grade.

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The University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Collection

For those interested in Latin American studies, this publisher has made numerous monographs freely available at its site. In addition, titles in Russian and East European Studies, as well as in Composition, Literacy and Culture are also available. A worthwhile repository of valuable out-of-print tomes.

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National Academies Press

The NAP is the publishing arm of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine, and the National Academy of Engineering – all are among the most prestigious STEM organizations in the world and as such produces highly regarded monographs, reports, briefings, and consensus documents on a whole host of topics from agriculture to national security. Well over 9,000 volumes are freely available online, sorted into specific topic areas. If one listens to the news, one will inevitably hear about a report issued by the NAP; the latest one to inform the general public dealt with The Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. One can always look at the latest releases section to see what new reports have been generated; more than 200 are published every year. And you can stay in touch with the NAP via various media platforms as well



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New Security Reports From the National Academies Press

Among the many diverse subjects the NAP publishes on, one deals with Conflict and Security Issues; currently over 550 volumes are available for free downloading/perusal. The latest volumes reflect the ongoing commitment of the NAP to issue pertinent reports; these reports have been produced within the past month alone: Changing Sociocultural Dynamics and Implications for National Security: Proceedings of a WorkshopEmerging Trends and Methods in International Security: Proceedings of a Workshop; and Leveraging Advances in Social Network Thinking for National Security: Proceedings of a Workshop. To keep yourself current on what the NAP disseminates, you can subscribe to the Conflict and Security Issues RSS feed.

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Galaxy Novels

For the space of a decade or so, Galaxy Science Fiction issued abridged reprinted novels as part of its line; they were available as standalone publications in the same format as the magazine itself. Many of these novels are/were considered classics at the time. So peruse the shortened versions of works by Jack, Williamson, C.L. Moore, James Blish, and L. Ron Hubbard (yes, that L. Ron Hubbard – some of his science fiction is darn good), among others.

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However you phrase it, I find these to be a necessity. I cringe when people fold down the page where they have left off reading; that is just pure evil. I have a modest collection of these, ranging from a tattered Strand book store paper marker to one crafted out of metal. Here is a lovely collection of said items; they are even housed in museums such as the Smithsonian. And please don’t ignore the featured selection at the International Friends of Bookmarks. This short piece from 1907 – The History and Development of the Bookmarker – is quite informative.


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