Recap: lib.ru is a massive Russian-language digital library, with both public-domain and copyrighted books, that is largely the work of Muscovite Maksim Eugenievich Moshkow. He recently answered some questions for the TeleRead blog.
Today: Format and reader issues
Lib.ru provides e-books in plain text, and some in html. (Either one or the other–no Gutenberg-like format options.) The information available varies for any given book. Title and author are standard, and most translations have the translator’s name. The file size in kilobytes is listed next to the name. However, the date, the edition OCR’d or translated from, and/or the copyright status is frequently missing.
Why did you choose .txt format?
I offer books in .txt format because it’s the most universal, and it lends itself to reading on any computer and any operating system. I consciously refuse to use formats like Word, PDF, and PS. Also, proprietary formats cause problems with both creation and use. But a text file is easy to make and easy to read.
How do people read e-books in Russia?
It’s hard to say. No one’s done a study. They read from the screen, and print them out. The people who can afford it read from a handheld device, but for now they’re rare here– no more than 1% of people have them.
Do you know what kind of handheld devices are popular in Russia? Is there a popular program for reading e-books?
There are no clear favorites. Everything to some degree– every model in use has a couple thousand or tens of thousands of units across the entire country. People even read using their cell phones.
(Note: Maksim Moshkow himself has a Rocket e-Book REB-1100, and loves it. More about that in the last post.)
What would your ideal program for reading e-books be like? What features would it have?
The ideal program would be fast and convenient. You would be able to:
-Turn on/off backlighting
-Increase/decrease font size
-Bookmark the text
-Change text orientation (portrait/landscape)
-Automatically remember your place in the text and know how to return there
-Search one/all text(s)
-Return to the place you left off
-Write notes/commentary on the text
-Download texts from the Internet
Personalization? Bookmarks? Searching? Notes? Sounds a lot like the upcoming OpenReader. Moreover, the file format for the OpenReader is non-proprietary, and easy to create using the .html output from OCR programs like ABBYY FineReader. (Nepotism disclaimer: OSoft president Mark Carey, who is helping create the first OpenReader-compatible software, is my father.)
Stay tuned to TeleRead for the last part of the interview with Maksim Moshkow.
Quinn Anya Carey is a BA/MA student in Slavic Linguistics at the University of Chicago.