Dutch e-books from Project Gutenberg, DBNL and Project Laurens Jz Coster

About a month a go I promised I would blog a bit about the difference between the major Dutch projects for public domain e-books.

I’m talking about:

  • books
  • in electronic format
  • with the copyrights expired
  • in Dutch
  • available for free
  • over the internet
  • in a format that allows mix, rip and burn.

That’s a pretty narrow subset of all literature ever created, but it works for me, because I’m Dutch, I can read, I have an internet connection, and I don’t like others to dictate what I should and should not do with that which I download. Also I don’t mind reading off a screen as long as that screen is attached to a pocket-sized lightweight hand-held device.

The major distinctions between Project Gutenberg, Project Laurens Jz. Coster (henceforth: Project Coster) and the Digitale Bibliotheek der Nederlandse Letteren (DBNL) in terms of literary content are:

  • Project Gutenberg also produces non-fiction, magazines, and translations of foreign classics,
  • Project Coster seems to have most of the Dutch classics
  • Project DBNL has in-copyright works

All three projects carry some of the major public domain classics, and all three projects carry obscure novels.

There are some differences in process that may or may not matter to you, depending on your needs. The DBNL claims copyrights on all of its works, regardless of whether they are really in the public domain or not. I tend to regard copyright notices on public domain works as declarations of intent to bite, and will stay away from them.

Project Coster seems to be “dead”. I e-mailed with its head honcho Marc van Oostendorp a couple of years ago, and he as good as confirmed that nothing was happening at Project Coster. Perhaps that has changed in the meantime; at least someone is still taking care of the hosting. On the other hand the broken image on its homepage may be a gentle reminder that you need not look for new versions of old books there.

Project Gutenberg takes all of its works from volunteers, and most of them from a volunteer organisation called Distributed Proofreaders. What’s that to you? Well, if you have scans of public domain books, you might try and run them through Distributed Proofreaders. They’ll do a large part of the error correction and formatting, leaving the stitching together of the pages to you.

Although the DBNL and Project Coster do not release data on the size of their catalog, sampling of their database leads me to believe that their catalogues are bigger than the one of Project Gutenberg, which does release such data.

At the time of writing Project Gutenberg is about to hit 300 etext numbers for Dutch works, which equates approximately to 300 unique works (there are a few bundled works there that are also available separately).

This just in: when checking the DBNL link, I noticed they now prominently feature a rich linguistics section on their front page.

One response to “Dutch e-books from Project Gutenberg, DBNL and Project Laurens Jz Coster”

  1. brankl says:

    I should mention that e-book seller ebook.nl has got a nice collection of free e-books, mostly modern but also some public domain works, listed under “Gratis.” Formats are mostly Adobe Reader and Microsoft Reader, with some Palm Reader and Mobipocket thrown in.

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