Standard eBooks make classic texts look beautiful

Volunteers from Gutenberg Project are among the great unsung heroes of the Internet. Since 1971 (!), They have digitized over 60,000 copyright-free books for preservation and convenience. While Project Gutenberg texts are better than before, they are often plagued by typos and don’t always have the nicest or most consistent typography.

A new project has emerged to build on the excellent work of Project Gutenberg: Standard eBooks. Their mission is as follows:

EBook projects like Project Gutenberg transcribe eBooks and make them available to as many reading devices as possible. Standard Ebooks takes ebooks from sources like Project Gutenberg, formats and composes them using a carefully crafted, professional-looking style manual, proofreads and proofread them entirely, then builds them to create a new one. edition that takes advantage of state-of-the-art e-reader and browser technology.

In other words, Standard Ebooks volunteers take selected books from Project Gutenberg, carefully proofread them, and put them in prettier packaging to read on your favorite device. Standard eBook titles provide:

  • Modern and coherent typography following a rigorous modern style manual
  • Careful proofreading
  • Rich metadata
  • Upgrades to make them play well with eReaders, including hyphenation, contextual footnotes, high-resolution and scalable graphics, and working tables of contents
  • High quality covers
  • Clean code and semantic markup for easy maintenance

Needless to say, every title offered by Standard Ebooks is free and free, DRM-free.

Add Standard eBook Titles to Apple Books

The Standard eBook Library is large and constantly expanding. You can browse by subject or search for a title. As you can see in the screenshot below, the offers are very varied and there is something for everyone.

The Standard Ebooks library

Here’s how to download a title in Safari and upload it to Apple’s Books app on an iPhone or iPad. Once you’ve tapped a title that interests you, scroll to the “Download for e-readers” heading and tap “Epub compatible”. (It’s a bit disturbing that the Standard Ebooks site uses tiny EPUBs, in stark contradiction to the style defined by the standards creators.) There is also an “advanced epub” option, but I did not find any benefit to this file format, and it tends to remove the nice cover art.

Tap Download when prompted. Once the download is complete, tap the download icon in the upper right corner and then tap the EPUB file in the download window. The book should open in Books.

Download from standard ebooks to iPhone

It’s even easier on Mac. Click “epub compatible” as above, and if Books is your default EPUB application, double-click the downloaded file to upload it to your library and open the book. If your Book Library is set to sync through iCloud, it doesn’t matter which device you add the EPUB files to, as they will sync with each other.

Paradise Lost in Apple Books on iPad
Standard eBook titles look great on any Apple platform.

Standard Ebooks also provides specially formatted .azw3 files for Kindle devices and apps, and .kepub files for Kobo devices and apps.

How you can help

If you have free time and love books, Standard Ebooks is always looking for volunteers. You can join their broadcast list to get involved, make suggestions and submit typos. They are also looking for proofreaders and people with the technical skills to compile eBooks. And, of course, they still have need money to pay for their tools and run the servers.

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