I’ve been grabbing Project Gutenberg texts as I think of them, and prettying them up with an epub editor, but I learned today that I’ve been largely wasting my time. Manybooks.net is a site that has most of the Gutenberg collection available and has already cleaned up the formatting and added covers to make these old public domain books look better and more recognizable on an e-reader’s virtual “shelf.”
That’s not the only thing the site has going for it.
It actually looks a lot like an online bookstore, like an early incarnation of Amazon.com, with lots of information about each book like the original date of publication, the book’s length, and even reviews. Because even though most of these books are considered classics, not all classics are created equal. I remember this exchange with the head of my high school’s English department, who taught all of the school’s college-level literature classes:
Some classmate: Mr. Reiss, what’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Another classmate:(under his breath, fake coughing) The Scarlet Letter!
Mr. Reiss: (firm, and a bit annoyed) Heavens, no!
And no, I don’t remember what he said was the best book he’s ever read. I just know it wasn’t The Scarlet Letter, which was required reading for all of us during sophomore year, and an experience few (if any) of us enjoyed.
So if you’re looking for something new to read, Manybooks.net takes quite a bit of the guesswork out of it.