E-book experiences: converted classics

So, a story that goes back to the time when I bought my e-reader. Fact is that many classics are now under public domain as the copyright protection expired – I believe it’s 50-90 years since author’s death, varying by country. For that reason, classic books are usually available for quite low price and many are available completely free in electronic form. Even though I don’t have a thing for classics as I am mostly into fantasy and a bit of sci-fi, there are some pieces I’d like to read eventually, like Jules Verne’s books.

So, eventually I read a few, namely Frankenstein, The Strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and eventually the poem The Raven for which the reason was that it’s supposed to be influence for Gothic metal genre, something I listen to among others. In English, most of them are either free or for less than 1$, slightly more if they are with some added commentary, in many cases you can choose.

Best part is that they are with all the perks of e-books I mentioned last time, and should I struggle with some archaism, the built-in dictionary can easily fix that. The story is slightly different when it comes to my country, where facing the digital revolution is still tough uphill fight.

So, as I said in the start, back to when I bought my Kindle. As a part of promotion – no clue if by the seller, or some general promotion to increase reader awareness – there was a coupon with code that allowed me to choose some amount of classics that were digitalized, translated to Czech in case it was foreign work. Good, I thought, as there are some pieces I wanted to (re)visit, specifically K.J. Erben’s collection of ballads. Yeah, I like darker things at times.

So, I downloaded a few, I think it was maybe three or four, the mentioned one among them. I opened the file… and what I felt was mix of horror and disappointment. I never thought much about the state of digitalization in my country (it says enough when school’s system has default password for any user ‘1234’ and admin is the one who damages the system most by downloading XXX stuff).

Unlike the perfectly done classics available on Amazon, this looked like someone scanned the books, did some digital clean-up, converted it to PDF and then converted that PDF to *.epub or *.mobi. Result was tragic. Line breaks out of place. Extra large breaks between paragraphs. No headlines for working table of contents. The horror!

I think that if I just opened the book on my table and rewrote it manually, I’d produce better result. While I have low opinion on pirated e-books, I think that even very bad pirate could do better on converting print book to digital version.

The good part: it’s probably the only bad experience I had with e-books so far, and it’s one where e-books are not to blame, just another example how badly organized archiving of anything is over here…

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