Upon examining my recent online efforts, I have found myself wanting an additional category to the Crawlspace. In recent years, I have been exploring new avenues of hitherto-unknown literary classics, and have merrily employed myself in making these works more readily available to the general public. Not that I'm decommissioning the Circular File, which was really meant as a repository for what little original work I produce. But my newly recognized hobby deserves a focus, category, and site of its own. And here it is.
Picture this scenario: you are an avid reader—always eager to explore our literary past—but find yourself increasingly fond of reading on your Kindle. Let us say, for example, that you come across a reference to a relatively obscure work which is in the public domain. The first thing you do is go to the Kindle Store at Amazon.com to see if a copy is available there.
That is your first mistake.
There, you find an edition, which you immediately purchase, only to find out that it contains utter crap.
This is what I mean by a "scan-off:" a scanned book freely available through Google Books or Archive.org, which is minimally processed, with absolutely no proof-reading. You're lucky if you even get some actual e-text, and not just a collection of page images (with any Google watermarks erased).
[Another common scam is to take a free scan from Google Books or Archive.org, and make it available on-demand as a paperback, hardback, or even leather-bound edition, leading you to believe that it is a quality publication, when it's no better than what you can download yourself.]
Therefore, as an educational service, I provide the following rules of thumb for locating a work online in Kindle format:
And that is my avocation: upon finding a work of interest, to go through all the hard work necessary to make it available in a quality, Kindle-friendly edition.
So why am I not publishing these works through Project Gutenberg? The short answer is that I cannot work with them. Whether my one actual collision was with a particular editor or a particular policy, I came to the conclusion that—as much as I admire their mission—I just could not stand them, and decided to publish my work directly through Amazon, for better or worse.
Every work that I publish goes through four phases: transcription, spell-checking, proof-reading, and correction. Note that correction is ongoing: almost every time I reread a book, I find a new error.
Transcription is by far the most difficult phase. Mostly I deal with scans that are already available online via Archive.org or Google Books. Occasionally, I must resort to scanning manually a library book or even a microfilm. In any case, my workup and correction of a scan involves a good deal of labor.
While I work up the OCR text, I also correct any obvious typographical errors in the chosen edition. However, I make no attempt to "modernize" the content. Variations of spelling or usage that seem in harmony with the context are preserved. No sentence or verse is ever fundamentally altered. However, I do reduce curly quotes and apostrophes to standard ASCII characters.
Choosing an edition to transcribe is also tricky. Generally, I try to find the latest edition that was published during the author's lifetime, or the earliest posthumous edition. I have indeed discovered that subsequent editions may well be mutilated by some editor—suffering under some literary disorder—whose virus is passed on in turn to later generations.
Hopefully, I have now educated you as to the reason for my efforts, and have sufficiently warned you away from inferior versions. Enjoy!
August 27, 2019
ffred's nearly-forgotten treasures