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About the Format of Online Books
Please see the formatting page to learn how to easily get these books ready to print.
What File Format are the Books In?
Plain Text Files - like those at Project Gutenberg
HTML - like those at Baldwin Project, Bartleby
Scanned Images or PDFs of Scanned Images - like those at Google Books, Internet Archive, MOA
Uncorrected OCR Text - also available at Google Books, Internet Archive, MOA
For Ebook Readers - Many formats available at ManyBooks.net and Project Gutenberg
Plain Text Files Sample: Sense and Sensibility
Plain and simple, every computer can read these. No pictures, though. (But many at Gutenberg are also available in HTML with pictures.) All of my links to online books go to plain text files, unless specified otherwise. Text files were my first choice, and I used them as often as possible.
HTML Sample: The Swiss Twins (the background of this particular page is yellow, but the pictures will print in black & white).
Fancier than text, because they can have bold, italics, and pictures. It can be a bit of extra work to copy and paste each page, but may be worth it to you. On my RC and Series pages only: if a book's available with pictures, I've marked it with this color, and also provided a separate link if it's not at the same location as the text file.
Do I really need pictures? No, but sometimes they're fun for younger children. And some books contain useful maps or diagrams. One option is to just copy or save the picture(s) you want, skipping the rest, and paste them into whatever program you're reformatting your text with.
PDFs Sample: A Christmas Carol
I tried not to link to PDFs unless I couldn't find another version. Why? You can't reformat it to your tastes, they often have a lot of wasted white space, and, depending in the page size, the text can come out itty bitty if you print half size. (There are some that are suitable for half size printing, like those at Planet PDF. To determine the size of a PDF page, download and open with Adobe. Then click: File/ Properties. Page size is near the bottom.) If you don't mind printing full size, these are nice files and can contain pictures.
(For PDFs of Scanned Images, read below. They are different and usually come out quite well in half size.)
Scanned Images or PDF of Scanned Images
Sample: The Children's Book of Thanksgiving Stories at Internet Archive [IA]
Sample: The Children's Book of Christmas Stories at Google Books [GB]
These are like getting a photograph of each page of the original book (just like RC books), including any pictures it may contain. These are often large files and can take a while to download with dial-up (for those who still use it), so I've also linked to a substitute in another format when possible. But if you prefer scanned books there are many available. Most of the text files I've linked to are also available as PDFs at Google Books or the Internet Archive. (Again, on my RC and Series pages only: Because of the possible pictures, I've marked scanned images in a color font, just like the HTML files with pics.)
As for using with ebook readers, these can be a pain. They end up scrunched pretty small without the ability to change the font size. Other file types are generally better suited to your reader (even other types of PDFs).
Printing - You can usually print these in half size without any problem, since the originals were about that size anyway. (When printing these PDFs, they seem to work best if you change "Page Scaling" to say: "Fit to Printable Area" so the image fills the page. Of course, this might vary from one book to another, so see what looks best before printing.)
Text option - Uncorrected OCR text is usually available as well as the PDFs or scans. (See below)
Scan Color - Most online scans (like at Google Books [GB], MOA, Canadiana, etc.) are crisp black and white. But sometimes the older PDF scans at the Internet Archive [IA] are yellowed, and may print a grey background, but 1) IA is offering many more books in BW, even if also scanned in color, and 2) if not, there is a way around it.
Quick-Fix for Yellow Scans - (Note: This method worked with older versions of Adobe, but as new versions are released, I can't guarantee the same method will work.)
Once the PDF from IA file is downloaded and opened in Adobe, look at the row of tabs at the far left. Click the one that says "layers". Click on the picture of the eye next to where it says "Background" and it will get rid of the colored background for you. The text and b & w pictures come out quite well. Colored pictures need the background turned back on, but most books have b & w pictures anyway.
[I did a book with colored pics as follows: I printed different sections of the book at a time (pages without pictures) to FinePrint, so all the text pages ran together. (It combines all of the jobs for you.) After printing those I turned the background back on and printed the pictures on toner saver in b & w, then inserted into the book. (Many old books have a blank page after the picture page, and often they are without numbers, so it works out perfectly.)]
Uncorrected OCR text Sample: The Story Girl
What's OCR anyway? A technology that "reads" a scanned page and translates it into text. It's not a perfect science, but usually works pretty well. I've linked to these only as a last resort, because I'm a perfectionist and don't like so many errors. (Those listed as uncorrected OCR are also available at the same link as scanned images, or PDFs of scanned images. IA's OCR texts seem to download faster than those at GB.)
What isn't corrected? Remember that everything that was on the original page becomes part of the text. If the title of the book, or chapter, was written at the top of each page, then that title will show up in the text everywhere a new page started. And the page numbers get thrown in too. These stand out pretty well and can be easily deleted, but that can be a pain with a large book. (Or you could just ignore the page numbers.) Sometimes the OCR translates things incorrectly and you will get strange typos, or extra blank spaces here and there.
Usually you can still tell what the text is supposed to say, even if it has typos. The table of contents will be the worst part, so scroll down to the main content before you decided if it's acceptable to you.
For Ebook Readers Sample: The Secret Garden at ManyBooks, or at Project Gutenberg.
More and more sites are providing books for your eBook reader. Project Gutenberg has added more formats, and IA and GB are have also added a few more formats. ManyBooks.net has many formats to choose from for various eBook readers. They also have a place to post and read reviews about the books. And they list what genre the book belongs to. The files usually come with the public domain notices from Project Gutenberg (because that's where most of their books came from). If you want to delete those portions, or edit out any objectionable language, download a format you can easily edit. (We use RTFs for that purpose, and our reader views them well.) We also use the free program Quick Search and Replace to easily edit out language. (There are other free programs like it out there.) And if a poetry book doesn't display well on your reader, try the .txt version, or get it from Project Gutenberg.
(While ManyBooks has been my favorite place to get ebooks for my readers, they're no longer adding all the new books that PG gets. And since PG has now added more formats you may not need the file types offered at MB.)
Links to titles at ManyBooks have been added throughout this site, and are marked with MB.
Check which formats work with your reader. The following are available (and sometimes change):
iPod Notes (.zip)
MS lit (slow) (.lit)
Palm DOC (.pdb)
PDF - custom (.pdf)
PDF - Large Print (.pdf)
Plain text (.txt)
Sony Reader.lrf (.lrf)
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