The Dunyazad Digital Library

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A Few Words on Text and Form

Text

Most of the books here are in the public domain and can be easily downloaded from a number of other places on the Internet, usually together with thousands, or tens of thousands, other books. Some of these places do very laudable work, making our literary heritage available to the public with great efforts, some just copy files that others have created (you notice that by the OCR errors they share), but all have in common that their emphasis is on numbers. With such quantities, no matter how much money or how many dedicated volunteers you have for the task, there is just so much attention that you can give to the individual book.

The Dunyazad Digital Library, which only has one dedicated volunteer (me), is not meant to be just another source for the same scanned files. While the number of books you’ll find here is small, they are all carefully chosen, edited, proofread and typeset, with the same care that should be (though not always is) given to a professionally published and printed book.

In my editing decisions I am free to do what I think appropriate. In some cases, this means that a book published here may differ notably from any of its previous editions (these differences, of course, are documented in that book’s “About this Edition” section), or that a particular collection of stories or poetry may not have been priorly published as a book at all, whether digitally or in print.

Form

I want to preserve the essential feature of the printed book (and of the hand-written codex and the scroll before it) into the digital age – the page – this is why PDF is the “native” format of the Dunyazad Library books. I am aware that many readers see the liberation of text from the confinement of the fixed page, its swift and easy adaptation to various screen sizes and individual display options, as progress, but I see this loss of form also as a loss of substance. This shapelessness diminishes a book’s power to draw me in, it takes away from the text’s flavor, it makes it less real.

If all the little details that make up a well-designed page escape the reader’s notice, the typesetter has done a good job. Good typesetting has no other purpose than to make the reader comfortable, to let them relax, to smooth out the visual bumps that, even if not consciously noticed, interfere with the reader’s immersion in the text. But good typesetting needs pages – with dynamically formatted text it cannot be done.

Personally I prefer printed books over digital ones, but they take up a lot of space on the bookshelf, and they cost a lot of money, to print, to ship and to buy. Digital books are much cheaper to produce (even if they are often sold at inflated prices), and take up no space at all, but much of what we love in a book – its visual and haptic properties – gets lost in an e-book. I strive, at least, for a compromise – the haptic I can do nothing about, but for the visual I try to do my best.

If your preferred reading device has a screen size of less than 8 inches, though, the PDF files, for all their typographic qualities, will be hard to read – you can then choose between EPUB, MOBI and plain text. Images and, for instance, Greek text are not included in these versions, but for most of the books this will make little or no difference.

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