eBooks GALORE!

Girlebooks.com is a website with a mission: it offers free e-books by female writers, all in an effort to “make classic and lesser-known works by female writers available to a large audience through the e-book medium”. Their titles include well-known novels by Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, and Lucy Maud Montgomery, as well as books by lesser-known authors like Hanna Webster Foster and Fanny Fern.

In an effort to judge the e-book experience, I compared the Girlebooks version of Fanny Burney’s Evelina with my print copy. The idea of reading a 400-plus-page-long novel online was a little daunting (even to a longtime fanfic reader like me), but I was happy to discover that Girlebooks had done everything possible to make their readers comfortable:

1. The digital version was surprisingly easy to read. I wouldn’t recommend trying to wade through Girlebooks’ Spartan “Plain Text” version of Burney’s novel, but their PDF version was attractive, neatly organized, and written in large, clear font.

2. There weren’t many differences between the printed and the digital texts, although I noticed that the e-book typist didn’t include any italics, and they appear to have changed some of the original punctuation marks. On the other hand, 18th century grammar and spelling wasn’t standardized, so I can’t be certain that the text in my print version is accurate, either.

And last, but definitely not least…

3. The e-book version of Evelina is free, while the cheapest (unused) print copy I could find was ten bucks. (There doesn’t seem to be a Dover Thrift edition.) Sure, you can’t curl up in an armchair with an online novel—unless you have some kind of fancy e-reader doohickey, which I don’t—but did I mention that it’s FREE?

My hat is off to the fine people at Girlebooks: their e-books are beautifully designed, and you can’t beat their prices. Anybody who hasn’t read Evelina—or any of the other excellent titles they offer—should run, not walk, to check them out.
Posted by: Julianka


21 Dec, 2007 04:14 AM @ version 0

I've used their site for school--their stuff is great, particularly if your bookshelves are already overstuffed as it is!

30 Dec, 2007 03:46 PM @ version 0

I just found this post, thanks for the writeup! A note on the texts--we at Girlebooks (mainly just me!) usually take an already existing digital copy, hopefully in an RTF format which includes italics and such (manybooks.net is a good source for this). Some books don't have an RTF format, so you're stuck with the plain Project Gutenberg text. However, as you mentioned, I put in an extra effort to make the formatting as comfortable as possible--adding bookmarks for chapters, spaces between the paragraphs, a nice, readable font.

As far as curling up in your favorite armchair for reading--I do that! I read on my palm, and it's quite comfortable once you get used to it. And less expensive than a Kindle or other overpriced ebook reader. I actually prefer reading on my palm to paper books these days.


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