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Why Aren’t E- Book Publishers Doing This? New Archive Offers Free Access to 22,000 Literary Documents From Great British & American Writers

tess cover

New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday – October 14, 2015 -by Jack Dziamba 

WHY DONT E-BOOKS HAVE THIS?

We have written often about the site Open Culture as one of the best sites on the internet on Culture, including Art and Literature. One of our favorite writers is Josh Jones*, has written the  article below on the  Harry Ransom Center‘s release of free access to 22,000 documents from American and British writers, here featuring the the work of Thomas Hardy. As you will see at the end of the article, the Harry Ransom Center has free access to documents from numerous other writers.  One of the thrills of visiting libraries that have an author’s “papers” is to see examples of the author’s work in progress, as the book is being created.  Why can’t we see this in our e-books?

FINE ART IN THE NEW MEDIA

The article is an example of fine writing, but shows the creativity that e0book publishers should be using to publish e-books which have real value. The article covers documents in the Ransom Center about Thomas Hardy.

WHY DONT E-BOOKS HAVE THIS?

Not only does the article give you links to some of Hardy’s most famous works, but shows you Hardy’s corrections of galley proofs, his architectural drawings, hand written correspondence, and signed typescripts. What the Harry Ransom Center has done here is a stunning example of the content that e-book publishers could add to their books to produce something of real value, rather than merely an electronic scan of the printed text, which continuously receives price resistance from frustrated readers. In other posts, we have called this concept the “Enhanced e- Book, or E+, profiling works by Jack Kerouac and other writers. See, for example,  E-BOOKS: WHAT CAN AN ENHANCED E-BOOK, “E +,” DO FOR JACK KEROUAC’S ON THE ROAD?

Re-blogged From Open Culture, June 30, 2015:

New Archive Offers Free Access to 22,000 Literary Documents From Great British & American Writers

Thomas Hardy—architect, poet, and writer … gave us the fierce, stormy romance Far From the Madding Crowd, currently impressing critics in a film adaptation by Thomas Vinterberg. He also gave us Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Return of the Native, and Jude the Obscure, books whose persistently grim outlook might make them too depressing by far were it not for Hardy’s engrossing prose, unforgettable characterization, and, perhaps most importantly, unshakable sense of place. Hardy set most of his novels in a region he called Wessex, which—much like William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha—is a thinly fictionalized recreation of his rural hometown of Dorchester and its surrounding counties.”

Hardy Revisions

“Now, thanks to the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, we can learn all about this ancient region in South West England, and Hardy’s transmutation of it, through Hardy’s own proof copy of a 1905 book by Frank R. Heath called Dorchester (Dorset) and its Surroundings, with revisions in Hardy’s hand. In the excerpt above, for example, from page 36 of this scholarly work, the author discusses Hardy’s use of Dorchester in The Mayor of Casterbridge and the so-called “Wessex Poems.” In the margins on the right, we see Hardy’s corrections and glosses. Though this may not seem the most exciting piece of Hardy memorabilia, for students of the author and his investment in a rural corner of England, it is indeed a treasure.”

St Juliots Hardy

“The Hardy archive also contains scans of the author’s correspondence, manuscripts and signed typescripts, and architectural drawings, like that of St. Juliot’s Church in Cornwall, above. This extensive digital Hardy collection is but one of many housed in the Ransom Center’s Project Reveal, an acronym for “Read and View English & American Literature.” Read and view you can indeed, through the intimacy of first drafts, manuscripts, personal writing, and other ephemera.”

 

OTHER AUTHORS

“Other authors included in the Project Reveal archive include Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Hart Crane, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, and William Thackeray. The project, writes the Ransom Center in a press release, generated more than 22,000 high-resolution images, available for use by anyone for any purpose without restriction or fees” (but with attribution). The literary storehouse on display here only adds to an already essential collection of artifacts the Ransom Center houses, such as the papers of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, syllabi, annotated books, and manuscripts from David Foster Wallace, scrapbooks of Harry Houdini, and the first known photograph ever taken. See a complete list of contents of the Ransom Center’s Digital Collections here, and learn more about this amazing library in the heart of Texas at their main site.”

*Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

 

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