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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The British Library Teams Up With iPad

I just spent a few minutes downloading and installing a great new iPad application from the British Library (what appears to be an updated version was made available today).  There are two versions of the app, a free one that allows the user access to about 100 books, and a version that costs $2.99 a month but allows access to something like 40,000 books.  According to BBC News, there are still another 25,000 to come.
"E-books tend to be rather two-dimensional. Rather flat and dull to look at," said Simon Bell, head of partnerships at the British Library.


"One of beauties of this is that it tries to represent in facsimile the beauty of the book."

[...]
The British Library said that it hoped to add other mobile devices in future and that it was talking to a range of partners, including Amazon.

The article also mentions that Microsoft participation in, and funding of, the project has ended but that Google will be digitizing another 250,000 books that could potentially be made available to subscribers.

It appears that the collection is comprised entirely of 18th and 19th manuscripts. I have sampled Robinson Crusoe and a book from the History of Travel section of the library called Through a Continent on Wheels.The color of the book covers and illustrations are very realistic and natural, giving these digital versions the feel of the originals.  Add to this the iPad's capability of "flipping" pages, and this is an e-book experience as close to the real thing as I've found anywhere.  To me, this is the real beauty of  the e-book concept - suddenly the average reader has access to books well over a century old that he would never otherwise have experienced, or even known existed.

The collection is organized into these categories:

Geography & Typography
Geology
History of Britain & Ireland
History of Travel
Novels of the 18th & 19th Century
Fiction & Prose Literature
Poetry &mDrama
General Historical Collections
History of Asia
History of Europe
Asian Collections: Geography of Asia
History of Social Sciences
History of the Americas
History of the Ancient World
History of the Middle East
History of Philosophy & Ethics
Military History & Warfare
History of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific
History of Central & South America

I am excited about this application - 100 books is a nice, sample and the free version I've downloaded allows searching the entire collection.  I'm leaning toward a subscription to the service but, since the British Library has given me a whole lot to digest for free, it will probably be a while.  This is a winner that iPad owners will want to jump on as soon as possible.
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