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Are Free Books on the Web Worth the Lower Quality?

This is a very interesting comentary on the quality of public domain works online. I have certainly experienced some of these issues outlined in this person’s experience.

From The Scholarly Kitchen:

The Terrible Price of Free: On E-reading Jane Austen via Google’s Ebooks


“Rather than pay for the Penguin or any other edited version of Austen, I decided to be a cheapskate and searched for free Google versions. And that’s when things began to go wrong. The Google editions were packed with errors. If I were not studying Google Ebooks for professional reasons, if I were not already familiar with the works of Austen, would I have gone on? Would I have thought that Austen does not know how to place quotation marks, that she made grammatical mistakes that would embarrass even a high school freshman, or that her dialogue sometimes breaks off without explanation? I began to wonder what service or disservice Google had performed, rendering one of the world’s most popular writers in a form as bizarre as the Zemblan translation of Shakespeare in Nabokov’s “Pale Fire.””

“The problems with the Google versions of Austen potentially stem from four sources, though it is the third of these that is the principal culprit:
1. The original print edition.
2. Digital scans of the print edition.
3. Optical character recognition (OCR).
4. Metadata.”

Also read:

The Expensive e-Book: The Illogical Reasons Why Paper Books Can Sell for Less

I suppose one metaphor is that I pay for movies on iTunes or Netflix because I cannot stand the horrible quality of the torrent versions.

Anyway, libraries have always taken a quality positioning and free is nice but we must continue to be aware of the potential limitations.


Posted on: March 15, 2011, 9:48 am Category: Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Don Abram said

    Rather than utilizing Google, I have found it most convenient to download some books from the Toronto Public Library…Ihave noted no particular loss of quality to date….Use your Public Library !!