Reading the Old in the Old Ways of Reading

Old Books by Sandeep 22/8/05
Often, when I’m talking about how our information environment is changing, I describe my experiences with Lulu, a print-on-demand service, through which I have self-published two of my books, Raw Materials for the Mind and Classroom Blogging.  I’ve just learned of another application of these services that I find quite intriguing — and I’m certain that some of the readers of this blog will think of even more applications.

Let’s start with the original premise.   I’ve written a story, or a text describing my hobby or other passion.  I’d like to see it as a book, or even make it available for sell.  However, I do not know how to attract the attention of publishers and can’t afford to contract with a printer to print and bind the book outright.

Enter Lulu and other print-on-demand services, where you upload your book in PDF format, select (or upload cover art), and then order your book.  Lulu prints the book and ships it for a fee, and if you choose, includes it in their online catalog, making it available to consumers. 

Now, lets step back even further to a world of writing that spans the centuries — archives of both obscure and famous books that are in the public domain and included in a number of online archives, such as:

  • The Internet Archive (300,000 public domain books)
  • Google Books (1.7 million public domain books)
  • Universal Library (600,000 public domain books)
  • Project Gutenberg (20,000 public domain books)
  • WikiSource (69,000 pages)

For example, Caesar’s Column, written by Ignatius Donnelly in 1891. The full text is available here, at the Internet Archive.  I want to read it, but not on my computer screen, and certainly not on one of those new-fangled Kindle things.  Load the text into your word processor, save it as a PDF, and upload it to Lulu, or other print-on-demand service.

To make things even easier, Yakov Shafranovich is running an experimental project, Public Domain Reprints, that formats and uploads the texts for you.

Anyone with an email address can place a request on this page using a link from a supported archive. Your request will be forwarded to our conversion server which will convert the appropriate book to printable form, and sends it off to several of the print on demand services we use. When the book has been uploaded, it will be made for immideate ordering and shipping, and you will receive a set of links to it via email and THEN you can make the decision to purchase the book as well as choose the print on demand service you want to purchase the book through. Requesting a reprint does not obligate you to buy the resulting book.

As I say again and again, it is not the computers that are impacting us as a society or as individuals.  It’s what we can do with information that is changing things.

Image Citation:
“Old Books.” Deepsan’s Photostream. 22 Aug 2005. 17 Feb 2008 <>.

Author: David Warlick

David Warlick has been an educator for the past 40+ years. He continues to do some writing, but is mostly seeking his next intersect between play, passion and purpose, dabbling in photography, drone videography and music production.