However, for older books, originally issued in paper format long before electronic form was envisioned, there is a wasteland stretching from 1923 until the present, excepting those recent titles where electronic editions have been contracted for. There is an ugly specter of copyright enfringement, the ill tempered dragon lurking in the Elysean Fields where electronic text might - perhaps - otherwise join traditional paper format to enrich scholarship in older materials. Those materials still under copyright - in the United States, those from 1923 to the present, but published before electronic editions were thought of and so included in publishing contracts. For example, the Tasini Case in the Supreme Court ( New York Times Co. v. Tasini - 533 U.S. 483 (2001) ) decided that electronic publishing is new publishing, and must be covered in an explicit agreement with the copyright holder of the material.
Through the Main Catalog of the Princeton University Library, direct access is provided to many thousands of full text books and other full text titles. Of the full text projects, two are of special note for their scale and the weight of materials they contain, Project Gutenberg and HathiTrust.
Project Gutenberg. Open Internet, <http://www.gutenberg.com>
Hathitrust. Open Internet searching, <http://www.hathitrust.org>
One powerful feature of Hathitrust is that it allows searching through the full text of all ten million titles, even if only a snippit of text containing the searched term can be shown, along with the page number and citation for the work. A paper copy of the material thus identified can then be consulted. This same searching is available in Goodle Books, which is a subset of the Hathitrust content. <http://books.,google.com>
A Sampler of Additional Electronic Text Projects available at Princeton includes the following.
EBRARY - Contains some 20,000 titles
However, it is important to note that digital text is a field whose growth is explosive and changes rapidly. Perhaps in the future the question of fair recompense of copyright holders in the recent past can be resolved, and much more electronic content of that material can be made available. .
Page last updated 27 January 2012 in the Princeton University Library.