Sunday, November 15, 2009

If Eaton's was still around, we'd be picking our Christmas gifts from their catalogue right now.

For this week’s blogging assignment, we’ve been told to peruse the Eaton’s catalogue from 1913-1914 and try to find some books online that were for sale in that year. A very cool assignment, but one that makes it easy for me to distract myself looking at other non-book related things! So here are some of the books I’ve chosen to find and where you can find them online, if you wish to do so.

The first book I decided to hunt down was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, one that was surprisingly easy to find. I Googled it, not expecting to find anything, but it was on a website called It’s fairly convenient, and the only problem I can find is that the writing isn’t broken up very well on the webpage. What I mean is that there are no page breaks and no feel of what actual page number you are reading. This is something which would bother me, but I guess if I were to read a book online, I wouldn’t be worried about this type of thing!

The next book I decided to look for was Little Women, by Louisa M. Alcott, a personal favorite of mine when I was young. I decided to check out Google Books for this one and was successful. What I like about Google Books is that the pages online are broken up like the pages in a book would be, something that would make reading a book online easier for someone like me.

This time I tried to pick a book I’d never heard of. I selected The Foreigner by Ralph Connor and tried to look for it on I couldn’t find it on this website, so I headed over to Google Books, and I was surprised to discover that it was there. What I thought was cool about this book was that its table of contents was all hyperlinked so that the reader could easily go from chapter to chapter, unlike with Little Women.

I then tried looking for a book called the Mystic Dream Book, but was unable to find any results. It didn’t have an author, so that might be one reason that it was so difficult to find. Other books by the same name were listed, but they were published in the 1960s and on, so I know it is not the same book. I’ll go back to looking for a book that has an author, so this time I’ll choose Little Lame Prince, by Miss Mulock. Upon searching for this at, I couldn’t find it, but then easily found it at Google Books. It was the second listing, and I discovered the author’s full name, which is actually Dinah Maria Mulock Craik. When I opened the link, I thought it was the full text, but at second glance, I realized it was just a preview of the book. I was curious if this was just Google not letting the reader see the entire book due to copyright reasons, so I decided to check out the Gutenburg Project just to see if it was there. It was. All of it. Hmmm.

The next book I’m going to look for is Discarded Daughter by Mrs. Southworth. I looked first at the Gutenburg Project because it was already opened in my browser, but it wasn’t there. I found it on the Internet Archive and was surprised to see that it had been downloaded 274 times. Considering I’d never heard of it, it seems to be somewhat popular. Under the copyright status it says that it’s not in copyright. This online book actually looks like a book; it’s even formatted to flip through the pages as if you were reading a physical book!

The last book I’m going to try to find is one out of the Peter Rabbit series by Beatrix Potter. I owned the entire collection as a child, and now I think I’ll see if I can find The Tale of Benjamin Bunny. Only a “snippet view” is available on Google Books, but the Gutenburg Project offers the entire book (and series). The only problem that I find with this is that there are no pictures, like in the original books, and that it’s literally just text on a website, which is very hard on the eyes. There is also a jumble of various words at the beginning of the webpage, above the actual Benjamin Bunny book, trying to elicit donations and looks like a very large and unattractive disclaimer.

If I’ve noticed one thing from trying to find these books from the early 20th century, it’s that they are shockingly easy to find. I certainly didn’t expect to find a book like Discarded Daughter so easily, and I thought that for sure Little Women would be copyrighted and hard to find a readable copy. I think it’s good to make these classic books available online, this way everyone with access to a computer is able to read them, instead of having to spend money and buy them. Yet, this also makes me worry about the future of books. With inventions like the Amazon Kindle and other readers similar to it, I wonder if the paperback book will ever become obsolete. I believe that the book is safe for at least another few generations, but after that I really don’t know what will happen. I know that I will probably never be inclined to read a book online just because I like the way it feels to hold a book in my hands and turn the pages, getting closer and closer to the end. And nothing beats the smell of a brand new book, something I’d love to see Amazon try to reproduce!

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