News: Read Classic Ebooks for Free — With Formatting You Would Actually Pay For

Read Classic Ebooks for Free — With Formatting You Would Actually Pay For

Volunteer project Standard Ebooks strives to enhance some of the work available from Project Gutenberg and other public domain text sources, making them easier on the eyes.

Standard Ebooks so far gave 100 titles a makeover, adding covers, "lightly modernizing" them, and designing them to work well in newer e-readers. They also fixed any minor errors in typography and grammar. The project includes additions to texts like pop-up footnotes and e-reader compatible tables of contents. Texts are available in a wide variety of platforms, with EPUB, AZW3, Kepub, and EPUB3 formats.

With volunteer work, they offer "free and liberated ebooks, carefully produced for the true book lover." Despite the potential interpretation of that phrasing as judgemental towards less "true" readers, the books themselves are as accessible as other free texts.

The ebooks are open-source, and changes made through the project are themselves made public domain, in addition to the basic texts. The books are also hosted on GitHub, making it easier for people to contribute their own improvements as well. These changes could help readers give their full attention to the "classic" titles Standard Ebooks selected.

One of Standard Ebook's titles in iBooks on an iPhone.

Project Gutenberg has over 54,000 titles and has been making them for decades. They offer an impressively wide range of texts. The Standard Ebooks project instead focuses on well-known texts considered classic literature.

Errors in text — like typesetting mistakes — can throw readers out of their experience, breaking focus and taking one out of the story. Especially with reading free texts rather than paid-for copies. Running across errors can be an unwelcome reminder that you may have had to settle for the ebook equivalent of a used copy — one with a slight coffee stain that you might find as a broke student in the back of the bookstore. (That coffee-stained copy, of course, can be a godsend anyway and beautiful to those of us who need it.)

The Standard Ebooks copies look like professionally published ebooks, not something you'd expect to get in a free ebook. It makes sense that Project Gutenberg can't invest that much in each title — the benefit of quick work is a truly impressive number of titles available to those who might otherwise not have access. But for readers interested in any of the "classic" titles Standard Ebooks focused on, the reading experience can now be more classic as well.

Cover image and screenshots by Miranda Stewart/Gadget Hacks

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