Q: What is Discoveries and Oddities from the Digital Library?

I’ve stumbled across a lot of interesting books on the Internet and this is a way to share them.

Q: Where is the Digital Library? I can’t find it.

The Digital Library just means resources on the Internet - Open Library, Project Gutenberg, all sorts of archives.  There’s no site by that name.

Q:  You know that’s a clumsy blog name right?

Yep.  When I couldn’t think of anything clever I settled for descriptive.

Q:  What are your criteria for including a book?

Really just something I find interesting for any number of reasons - topic, style, illustrations, design.  It’s unlikely anybody else will find every book interesting but I think my general tastes are apparent.  Anything I post has to be public domain and legally downloadable.

Q:  Have you read all these books?

Nope.  Some I have but if not I go through excerpts and skim to see if the book really is worthwhile.  I'm sure in some cases that gives a mistaken impression.  Not much fiction has been posted because that's something that really does need to be read completely.

Q:  You know that “Open Library direct link” actually goes to Archive.org?

Yes, noticed this after I started. Sometime I’ll figure out if this is important or not.

Q:  Why use the title page for illustration?

Because few of these books have anything like a cover as we know it.  (Those were mostly being developed during the 1920s.)  If there is anything I'll try to add it.

Q:  What about the Hathi Trust?

It’s a great resource and includes lots of titles you won’t find elsewhere, including a lot of non-English books.  However you can’t download these unless you’re connected to a participating institution.  The books can be read on the site but it’s a clunky interface and who wants to do that.

Q:  Why is everything so old?

For the most part public domain books are 1923 or earlier.  There are exceptions and it can be complicated but basically I’m assuming if any of these established sources consider it public domain then it is.  Of course “old” just means more stuff to discover.

Q:  What’s your biggest frustration?

That the metadata and scanning procedures weren’t as thorough as they should be.  Works in more than one volume are a constant problem since frequently only one volume was scanned, apparently in the belief that the other volumes were duplicates.  That’s really a guess but many titles couldn’t be used because only one volume is available and this comes up frequently.  

Q:  How long before you run out of titles?

Oh I’ll lose interest in the blog long before that happens.  I have a list of a couple of hundred books to post and always discover new ones.

Q:  Anything you’d like to include but can’t?

Yes, there are lots (LOTS) of books that aren’t available yet.  Even on Open Library you’ll find records for titles without a scanned book and I often run across titles in other sources that don’t have any kind of record.  

Q:  Some of the books are histories but aren’t these outdated?

Possibly but increasingly I’m more likely to read an older work written with style and some liveliness than a more modern one that’s churned out of the academic assembly line.  Still it’s worth keeping in mind when this might matter most.  For instance, an early 19th century history of early Christianity is far more likely to be unreliable than a book from the same date about ancient Rome.

Q: You got a date wrong.

Yeah, probably in some cases.  The metadata is often the date of an edition not the original work.  While I try to doublecheck sometimes that’s all that comes up.