Librarian Battle: Project Gutenberg vs. Bartleby.com

Sometimes two people just can’t agree. Sometimes, those people are librarians. This is one of those times…

On debate today is which website is the best free resource for literature.

Dea will begin by presenting her case for Project Gutenberg:

Gutenberg is run on hopes and dreams – that is to say, volunteers and donations. Despite the limitations you might think this would entail, the site has over 25,000 titles in their online book catalog. And files come in a variety of formats, including mp3s, easy to manage plain text, and html so that you can read the books online. Consisting only of public domain titles, the site still has a staggering variety of titles to choose from, from the Wizard of Oz to Paradise Lost to Pride and Prejudice. So if you want to read a book that was published before 1923? This is the place to go.

And here’s Andrea, introducing Bartleby.com:

He’s a humble scrivener, but he won in the end.

Bartleby.com takes their name from the humble copywriter in Herman Melville’s short story Bartleby the Scrivener. Bartleby.com offers the Great Books online – complete electronic texts classic literature, including non-fiction, fiction, and verse, and literary reference for free. You can search for a specific title, quotation, subject, type of fiction, and you can also find author biographies that provide an overview of their works.

Challenge 1:

Andrea: With Bartleby.com, I can easily search for famous quotations. Can Project Gutenberg do the same?

Dea: It’s true, to find a quote, you’d have to pull up the e-text of Bartlett’s quotations and do a Ctrl+F search for the quote you want. It’s difficult, but doable.

Score: Bartleby 5, Gutenberg 2

Challenge 2:

Dea: With Project Gutenberg, I can browse books by LC subject headings – it’s a librarian’s dream come true. How does Bartleby’s stack up?

Andrea: Who uses LC subject headings? I just want to find an author biography! And Bartleby.com has those, and searches encyclopedia entries, even about authors whose work is not yet out of copyright.

Score: Bartleby 1, Gutenberg 5

Challenge 3:

Andrea: Bartleby has The Oxford Book of Latin Verse from 1912 by William Heathcote Garrod, and the Collected Poems by Rupert Brooke from1916. Can I find these on Project Gutenberg?

Dea: Latin verse? No. But your Collected Poems by Rupert Brooke are right here.

Score: Bartleby 5, Gutenberg 2.5

Challenge 4:

Dea: Let’s talk entertainment – Does Bartleby have awesome sci fi action adventure books like Princess of Mars? Or anything as awesome as the British comedy of errors that is Right Ho, Jeeves?

Andrea: Bartleby has Shakespeare. Who needs sci fi action adventure when you have Midsummer Night’s Dream (though not read by Nicholas Cage.)

Score: Bartleby 1, Gutenberg 5

Challenge 5: Open Debate

Andrea: Gutenberg is difficult to search – what if I can’t remember the title or the author? What if I only remember a line in the poem but not the first line? What if I just want someone to tell me what to read – does Gutenburg have featured authors, daily quotes and definitions, and Gray’s Anatomy? Bartleby: +5

Dea: Who needs Gray’s Anatomy? It’s not like Bartleby is streaming episodes of the TV show. That would be cool. But let’s talk about Bartleby’s crazy pop-up ads, banners, and shameless marriage to Amazon.com. Gutenberg: -3, Bartleby: -5

Andrea: Bartleby is better for scholarly research or when you’re feeling brainy and want to remember what happened in those English classes long ago. Bartleby: +5

Dea: And Project Gutenberg is better for slacking off and reading e-books at work. Not that I need to do that now that I work in a library. Gutenberg: +5

Total Scores:

Project Gutenberg: 16.5

Bartleby.com: 17

So the winner is Bartleby.com. But really, both sites are totally awesome, and worth checking out.

This post brought to you by Library War.

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