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REVIEWS: Classic Books on the Palmtop

A "Novel" Subscriber PowerDisk Offering

Would you like to have your library with you all the time? Vertical Reader and Project Gutenberg can put your favorite classics on the HP Palmtop.

By Jeff Zorn and Robert Roney

We've seen technology revolutionize the creation of literature with word processors and desktop publishing. Now on your HP Palmtop you can witness a revolution in the availability of literature. You are now able to carry a whole library in your pocket, thanks to the availability of larger RAM cards, the HP Palmtops, Vertical Reader, and Project Gutenberg. There is a sense of excitement about these wonderful little Palmtops, that offer easy access to personal information and now to a wide selection of entertaining books (or what we call on America Online the "Palmtop Paperbacks").

This excitement started about a year ago when Gilles Kohl developed Vertical Reader, a shareware program that makes reading electronic texts easier on the small screen of a Palmtop (and on other DOS machines also). But what were we going to read? Well Gilles had the answer to this too. He introduced the Palmtop community to the E-TEXT library of Project Gutenberg.

Vertical Reader

Vertical Reader: Graphic

 Gilles Kohl, a native of Luxembourg living in Germany, is the author of this "novel" program. His Vertical Reader program is available for both the 95LX (VR95 ) and the 100/200LX (VR100 ) to read any standard ASCII text file on your Palmtop. These programs are available on the 1994/95 Subscriber PowerDisk.

Instead of displaying the text horizontally, the way you normally read the HP Palmtop screen, VR displays the text vertically, as seen at the top of this page.

You hold the Palmtop like a paperback book, vertically with your left hand. With your left thumb hit the space bar to turn the page. When viewed sideways like this the text looks more like a column in a newspaper and is much easier to read.

Gilles lets you choose from seven fonts which vary in style, size, and boldness, to make the text even more readable. The 95LX version comes with an additional tiny font contributed by Dave Goodman. Gilles says the 95LX version is a little easier to read, with larger pixels and better contrast than the 100/200LX version.

The latest version (1.1) of both VR95 and VR100 has added 180 degrees rotation so you can hold the Palmtop in the other hand, manual and automatic text scrolling, and has directory navigation to make it easy to find the Project Gutenberg text files on your disk. To help keep track of what you read you can use up to 10 book marks. Gilles has also created a sample 100/200LX database (VRTEXTS.GDB) to keep track of texts you've read using VR. Gilles has Alice in Wonderland (ALICEW .ZIP ) and Moby Dick zipped to 600K on his 100LX. He tells of another user who has the English version of War and Peace (4MB) installed on a Flash Card.

If your eyesight is reasonably good and if you have room on your RAM card, VR is surprisingly useable. No more dragging around books -- put your things-to-read on a RAM card. The program is technically shareware, but registration fees range from sending the author a post card to donating to Project Gutenberg.

Project Gutenberg

After a number of years, literature becomes copyright-free. That means that text file versions of Edgar Allen Poe's poetry, the Bhagavad Gita, or Moby Dick can be copied onto a Flash card without violating copyright law. There's a lot of copyright-free fiction and non-fiction available on paper. One of the goals of Project Gutenberg is to transfer these works to a computer-readable format and make the maximum number of these electronic texts available to the maximum number of people. (The Internet address of Project Gutenberg is: dircompg@ux1.cso.uiuc.edu.) As the owner of an HP Palmtop, you can read these ETEXTs (electronic texts) in one of Gilles custom fonts on the HP 95LX or 100LX. You can also view them from FILER by highlighting the E-TEXT file and pressing (F8), or by selecting a file in MEMO. Some of the E-TEXT files are very large and will not load into MEMO. (You can also view the files with PowerDisk offering VU.COM in DOS on the 100LX in the smaller 80 column font. You might also be able to read the files on another word processing program on your Palmtop (VDE , FREYJA , FastWRITE, etc.) or from a word processor on your desktop PC or Mac. When using word processors or MEMO you may need to adjust the margins to make the text more readable.)

Dr. Michael Hart, Project Gutenberg Executive Director, has provided some background on Project Gutenberg. It has been around for some 22 years, posting "plain vanilla" ASCII ETEXTS on the Internet. The Project is a focal point for information related to the production and use of E-TEXT, both complex commercial and copyright-free works in all formats. The Project's goal is to encourage the creation and unlimited distribution of some 10,000 English ETEXTS by the end of 2001. It is also encouraging the development of libraries of ETEXTS in French, German, Latin and other languages.

Hundreds of volunteers around the world prepare all of Project Gutenberg ETEXTS. Most, but not all, are released into the Public Domain. The project is funded by donations from readers and corporations interested in promoting the world of E-TEXT. The majority of the work involved (text entry, proofing, copyright research, hardware, software, etc.) is donated by individuals around the world.

Categories of E-TEXT books

The E-TEXT fall mainly into about half a dozen categories:

  • Light Literature -- Peter Pan, Anne of Green Gables;
  • Heavy Literature -- Paradise Lost and Regained, Moby Dick;
  • Reference -- Roget's Thesaurus, World Factbooks, Census Figures, the NAFTA treaty, math constants;
  • Computers -- E-mail 101, Zen and the Art of the Internet, Surfing the Internet;
  • Science Fiction -- H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Flatland, etc.;
  • Popular and Seasonal -- Freedom Documents, Martin Luther King, and seasonal releases at Christmas such as Dickens' Christmas Carol.

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A List of Some of the E-TEXT Titles Available from Project Gutenberg

E-TEXT Books Available on the HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK

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