A. I haven’t thought about it in that way – but each copy of a file is insurance against its suppression. The public domain is a valuable resource that is protected by being disseminated as widely as possible.
Perhaps my esteem for Open Source programmers stems from their acknowledgement that they’re “standing on the shoulders of giants” – that software, like fiction or scholarship, isn’t created in a vacuum, and without the work of our predecessors we wouldn’t have the building blocks that have gone into current works. The public domain is, in some ways, the common source code for our contemporary fiction, etc.
Software and books: ‘Some sympathies in common’
There’s no exact parallel between software and books, public domain and open source, but they have some sympathies in common.
So, bringing things back down to earth, I hope to make e-books more easily browsed, discovered and enjoyed on a variety of devices, and that those books will be passed along and preserved; and that they’ll always be available as inspiration for our contemporaries.
The eBabel question
Q. What do you feel about the current “rats’-nest” of e-book formats? Do you plan to add epub to your format options?
A. Frankly, as a reader I find the “rats’-nest” completely ridiculous. I’d like to be able to buy a book and read it – from paper, on my phone, on my iLiad – without having to consider whether the “thing” I’m purchasing (an eReader file, a PDF, a paperback, a CD, a digital-license to perform, etc.) can be converted/copied/interpreted. I’d like to be able to read, without wrestling with multiple applications, conversion routines, licenses, and myriad restrictions.
HOWEVER: I’ve found that wrestling to be kind of fun, at least at first, while running manybooks. It’s a puzzle. If, by figuring out some of the puzzle I help someone else read a bit without the aforementioned hassle, that’s great.
I’m not for or against any particular format, and I’m happy to consider epub or any other new format that shows up. The best formats are those with wide support on the reader side, and formats with open/free tools are the easiest to work with. Right now epub is a little light on the reader side – FBReader has partial support, I think, Mobipocket converter can import it but the actual reader can’t handle it on its own, and Adobe’s Digital Editions is desktop only (and I’m partial to portable/mobile devices). But it is an open standard, and shouldn’t require any specific conversion tools, which is really appealing. Maybe someday I’ll be able to read an epub document on my iPhone, my desktop computer, etc. – after buying the physical version from Amazon.com.
[Moderator’s note: FBReader works great with .epub from Feedbooks.net despite the app’s lack of CSS support. May Matt add .epub soon! – David.]
Will let manybooks.net evolve at its own speed
Q. Do you have any solid plans for manybooks? Or are you just happy to let it evolve at its own speed?
A. I don’t have any solid plans, aside from keeping manybooks going and trying to make it useful, and the books available in as many formats as possible. I’d like to add some way for folks to keep a bookshelf of their favorite books, perhaps keep a log of their reviews/thoughts on each text that they could share with the world.
There are still bugs and unfinished bits (I’ve got to get the custom HTML page to store settings for the next visit, for example), and the overall design could be nicer, etc.
Q. Well, if we may say so we think the design is pretty neat already: clean, open, easy to navigate. Thank you, Matt, for sharing your thoughts with TeleRead, and thank you for manybooks.net. An army of readers has cause to be grateful for your labors and your enthusiasm. Long may manybooks continue to thrive!