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U.Va. Electronic Text Center's Free E-Books Are Worldwide Hit

October 2, 2000 -- From the Bible and Shakespeare to Jane Austen and Jules Verne, the University of Virginia Library's Electronic Text Center (Etext Center) is making more than 1,200 of its 50,000 online texts available as free e-books that may be downloaded from the World Wide Web and read using free Microsoft Reader software. With over 600,000 downloads since the project was launched in August, the Etext Center is one of the largest and busiest public e-book libraries in the world, library officials said.

The Microsoft Reader software may be installed on a desktop or laptop computer, or on a Pocket PC hand-held computer. The software displays the electronic text on a computer screen so that it resembles the pages of a traditional book. "The goal is to read pages on the computer screen for extended periods of time, rather than to print them out," said David Seaman, director of the Etext Center at the University of Virginia Library.

The e-books are available free of charge at and titles are added regularly. E-books currently available include the Bible, all of Shakespeare, and classics from Dickens, Lewis Carroll, Robert Frost, Arthur Conan Doyle, Shelley, Darwin, and Jane Austen. The collection also includes American fiction and history from Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Twain, Melville, Stowe, Hawthorne and Poe; early science fiction by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jules Verne, and others; writings from Native American and African-American authors; and illustrated children's classics. "Aesop's Fables" alone has been downloaded more than 4,000 times, Seaman said.

Readers from more than 100 countries have downloaded e-books from the Etext Center. "The use of our e-books is truly global, with users coming not only from North America, but also from Europe, New Zealand, Australia, and even a good many from

Asia, Africa, and the Russian Federation. The enormous popularity of our e-book holdings does much to validate the concept of the e-book software as a reading environment," said Seaman. The audience is broad, including high school and college students, teachers, parents, and the general reading public.

"We see e-books as another way for the library to enhance educational opportunities and research experiences," said Martha Blodgett, associate University librarian for information technology. Users can download numerous texts onto one computer, giving them access through one device rather than carrying many books. E-books are convenient for researchers, who can perform keyword searches in less time than it takes to flip through a paper book looking for a certain word or passage, she said. E-books also retain some of the best features of paper books. Users can write notes on a page and even "dog-ear" pages. "This is a new and evolving technology and we are excited about the opportunity to experiment with it," she said.

All of the University's e-book offerings are also available on the Web as part of a much larger multi-language collection produced by the University Library's Etext Center. Currently, the entire Etext Center Web site is accessed some 90,000 times a day by approximately 25,000 users. The Etext Center, founded in 1992, was the first electronic center of its kind and provides Internet access to humanities-related XML texts. For more information, visit the center's Web site at

Contact: Melissa Norris, (804) 924-4254

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: please contact the Office of University Relations at (804) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (804) 924-7550.
SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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