Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Classic Novels and Movies Collide in the eBook realm

These days I fear I dream about eBooks and how to include them in our Library offerings (actually, I don't fear it, I've really dreamed it. Yikes!) The vendor and platform market is in major flux, and I feel like Indiana Jones on a precipice with a herd of wildebeasts rushing towards, wanting to jump but having no clue which way to go (better than an army of ravenous red ants, but only a little bit). It's not the time to invest thousands of $$$ in one vendor, to find that in 6 months the subscription fee triples, and there's no 'ownership' of or rights to transfer eBooks we think we've 'bought.' Oi, these are good times to be a copyright lawyer!

I've begun to include classic (public domain) novels converted to eBooks (including Kindle and iBook readable formats) in our Surpass WebSafari catalog (search for keyword 'electronic books') -- the idea is, if a student is looking for Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (taught every so often by Joseph Cullen), the eBook version will be listed in the catalog alongside the print version. There are dozens of iPads circulating around the high school, with numerous other eReader capable laptops & Kindles owned by or checked out by students. Our fabulous technology staffer Lauri Lee has created a spreadsheet of all high school textbooks with "E" options, which has made it simple to identify this semester's texts that are in the public domain, and available for free download.

If you don't yet know about Project Gutenberg, you should investigate now. Back in grad school, I heard Michael Hart speak about his endeavor to 'digitalize' all the world's public domain documents, and I'm now seeing this labor of dedication becoming useful to everyday students at Paideia School.

I believe that technology can give us ways to loan electronic books to users while still respecting the copyright owner's right for deserved gain/remuneration. We're just not quite there yet without hitching our wagons to a major vendor. Stay tuned -- this is important, and lord knows, with all the Kindle Touch and Fires destined for holiday giving, it's imminent.

Until then -- the inspiration for this post:

Two Princeton academics have launched a new eBook imprint that ties public domain eBooks and current movies. Scarlet Oak Press is making enhanced eBook editions of major films based on classic books that are coming out this fall and winter.

The enhanced editions include original introductions, an annotated study guide, maps and illustrations, as well as what Scarlet Oak Press is calling a “page-to-screen history.” This includes: 'The Three Musketeers' and 'The Best of Sherlock Holmes: Stories and Novels' both of which are coming out as films this fall, and Jules Verne‘s 'The Mysterious Island', Edgar Rice Burroughs ‘ A Princess of Mars,' which is the basis for Disney’s 'John Carter' and Edgar Allen Poe‘s 'Raven: Dark Tales from Poe.' All of the titles are $.99 in the Kindle store.
Or, if you want to sample the original novels before paying for "enhanced" versions, click on the links in the paragraph above for the Project Gutenberg downloadable ebooks (though 99¢ is a pretty reasonable gamble). I plan to dive into The Scarlet Pimpernel this weekend. Happy discovery!