British Library offers e-classics app for iPad

LONDON Wed Aug 3, 2011 1:47pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Frankenstein, Oliver Twist and Robinson Crusoe could all be lurking on your iPad if you download a new application launched by the British Library this week which provides access to over 45,000 historical and antiquarian titles.

The British Library 19th Century Historical App, created in collaboration with software media firm Bibliolabs, offers users of Apple Inc's iPad tablet computer a range of classic works by Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Daniel Defoe and many, many others as well as a fair few long-forgotten works, including Victorian travel writing, poetry and scientific texts.

The high resolution digital images of the app simulate the experience of reading an old volume, unlike standard e-books, and recreate in color the look and texture of the original pages and bindings as well as any engravings or illustrations.

"We launched a taster app in June and were completely overwhelmed by the response we received - it was phenomenal," Samantha Tillett, Product Development Manager at the British Library told Reuters.

"It seems people have a real interest in these works as they provide an insight into all aspects of 19th century life from all around the world."

The collection, which is expected to expand to 60,000 titles by the end of the year, also contains books from the 18th, 17th and even 16th centuries and features books in French, Spanish, Norwegian, Portuguese and Dutch.

The app allows book lovers to navigate through the digital library by entering keyword and title searches, create lists of their favorite reads and exchange titles with friends via email for a subscription fee of 1.99 (or $2.99 for U.S. and global users) per month.

However, the sheer volume of digitized literature means the books will not be downloaded directly onto the iPad.

Instead, individual titles can be selected by subscribers from an internet "cloud" of books and placed on their bookshelves for offline reading, Tillett said.

Internet search engine company Google plans to digitize a quarter of a million books from the British Library's collections covering a period from the French Revolution to the end of slavery as part of an ambitious books project.

(Edited by Paul Casciato)