Electronic Text Center's Free E-Books Are
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
The e-books are available free of
charge at http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/ebooks/
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 http://etext.lib.virginia.edu
Contact: Melissa Norris, (804)