Meaning comes from context.
Book collections are more than just books.

We publish books you read on your computer, collected and organized in useful and suggestive ways on CD and DVD. We offer classics and out-of-print gems, organized by author, genre, time period, theme/subject, and geographic region. Books in text form are searchable, printable, and editable. You can buy an entire library for the price of a single printed book.

Intended for use with PCs (Windows or Linux) and recent Macs (OS X), our books are in plain-text format, not audio or video. You read them on your computer screen.

Anyone can put hundreds of books on a single CD. (Isn't technology wonderful?) But we're interested in providing not just large quantities of books at ridiculously low prices, but also providing a "context". The selection matters. Putting the right books together in ways that make them easily accessible can create a unique context that makes it possible to better understand a region of the world, an historical period, or an author. That's our goal.

Such a collection falls midway between what we have come to think of as a book and what we think of as a library -- an organized set of books with some element in common, which brings to light relationships that might otherwise have passed unnoticed, and that suggests paths for further research and reading.

We have nearly 200 book collections now, and keep adding new ones and improving them all. Our CDs and DVDs are hand-crafted. The selection and organization is based on our judgement, not automated programs.

What do we mean by "plain text books"?

Plain text (also known as ASCII) is the simplest form of text prepared for use on a computer -- without any of the formatting that is usually specific to a specific program.

Using a plain text book is the same as reading any plain text file on your computer. You can open a plain text document with your Web browser or with a word processor like Word. Then you can use the power of that specific application to modify how the text appears to suit your tastes.

For example, go to http://www.samizdat.com/iraq.txt with your browser. If you are using Microsoft's Internet Explorer as a browser, then click on View and on Text Size and see how that book looks with different type sizes. If you had that book on one of our CDs (it appears on our "Middle East: Context for Conflict"), you could open it with Word and then change font or type size as you would with any other document, if you wish (I keep the default myself). You also could copy the book to your hard drive and save any formatting changes that you make or enter and save notes, or enter and save markers to remind you where you last left off reading, etc. There are many possibilities.

To practice what you can do with plain text on your hard drive, save that Iraq file as text and then experiment with the file on your hard drive.

Why read a book on a computer?

1) It's easy to curl up with a laptop (just a matter of habit).

2) You can set the type whatever size you want, so there's less eye strain than with a paper book (unless you are set up with extraordinary glare conditions). I need to use reading glasses to read a paper book, but don't to read one on my computer.

3) I actually find that I read about 50% faster this way.

4) These CDs come with sample text-to-voice software (ReadPlease). You can try it for a month to check the quality (which I found surprisingly good), and to see if your kids feel comfortable with it. Then if you like the software, you can get a license for it -- to read any text on your computer, not just the files on the CD.

5) If you travel long distances or frequently, it's a lot easier to take along a few CDs than boxes full of printed books.

All in all, it's a matter of personal taste and habit. If you think this might be for you, give it a try.

Important facts about this book collection on CD

  • text not audio on CD, for use on Windows PCs and recent Macs (OS X), not on music CD players
  • no illustrations
  • no page numbers
    • instead of using page numbers, you can search through the text of a single book using the Find function in Word, IE, or whatever other application you use to read the book; or you can search across all the content of all the books -- for that, we recommend copying books from CD or DVD to your hard drive and then using free MSN desktop search http://desktop.msn.com/ for fast and accurate results


Would you like more free books to experiment with?

Send me email at seltzer@samizdat.com and each week I'll email you the "ebook of the week" as a plain text file attachment, so you can get used to reading plain-text books on your computer screen.