"The trouble is, however, that I feel that I have something to say"
May 12, 2024 11:01 PM   Subscribe

"The trouble is, however, that I feel that I have something to say"
A 2017 post on the Blue linked to an essay (archive.org!) about a kinda mysterious 1886 American book, The Story of Don Miff, highlighting its unusual "postmodern" elements. I made a proper proof-read ebook, not previously available, that you can get at >> gutenberg.org <<.

This project is the same type of thing that Distributed Proofreaders (DP) does thanks to numerous volunteers, like Wikipedia. I had tried "solo" ebook-making a few times before this book (e.g., [1], [2], [3]), as I bristled under the slow and fussy DP culture [said as a person with OCD] and wanting to see if I could "go it alone" and show them (e.g., that three rounds of proofreading are overkill). Forgive the editorial, but that's how I became a one-person transcriber of old books.

When I saw the 2017 FPP, I thought that Don Miff would make a great candidate for this treatment, and started out straight away. Then I stopped; you might be surprised at the amount of time it takes, even with OCR copies of every page as the starting point! It was probably 150 to 200 hours for this 490-page novel. You have to make a proper HTML version from the text version, then the HTML is converted into ebook formats automatically. The HTML aspect adds a lot when you're feeling "almost done" with the most important text-integrity stuff (and you've e.g. marked italics everywhere, called "formatting" on DP).

In the mean time, 2017–2024, nobody else had transcribed the book. Looking at old files, I dug into my zipped book-projects and wondered if I should try again.

Anyway: Don Miff is a nice genre story of that classic type I haven't read in so long that I really did Have Emotions by the end—wrapped in a weird frame story with "competing narrators" and a lot of humor, making it a notable book for its time. For more on that, see the essay.

This project has become a reflection on time and archiving. The narrator John Bouche Whacker (certainly not "editor" Virginius Dabney) starts by telling us he's writing to a relative 10 generations down the line. We're gonna need better archiving if Ah Yung Whack is to receive his copy: after all, the FPP that introduced this book to me has a dead link after a mere seven years, while this transcription has helped to make accessible a book 20 times as old. The relevancy of Project Gutenberg is highlighted.

(And while I'm here, if there is some public-domain book (in modern English) that you think is historically important but hasn't been posted as a proper text anywhere, let me know. I do feel that the distributed book-making projects have a lack of focus these days.)
Role: transcriber
posted by sylvanshine (1 comment total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

This is so cool! The process of transcribing / ebook creation is totally foreign for me, although I benefit from it so very often. I heavily respect the amount of meticulous time needed to create something like that.

I wonder if there is some kind of list out there of books needing transcription? I would love to try to learn how through a short story or a novella.
posted by lianove3 at 7:30 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


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