Standard Ebooks

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer driven, not-for-profit project that produces lovingly formatted, open source, and free public domain ebooks.

Ebook projects like Project Gutenberg transcribe ebooks and make them available for the widest number of reading devices. Standard Ebooks takes ebooks from sources like Project Gutenberg, formats and typesets them using a carefully designed and professional-grade style guide, lightly modernizes them, fully proofreads and corrects them, and then builds them to take advantage of state-of-the-art ereader and browser technology.

Standard Ebooks aren’t just a beautiful addition to your digital library—they’re a high quality standard to build your own ebooks on.

This is a great idea. One thing gives me pause, though, and that’s the idea of “lightly modernising” the books. I like “to-day” in old books, and I’m not sure whether books that are “lightly modernized” will have their spelling adjusted to American English.

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture

I haven’t been able to make my mind up about Dylan’s win of the Nobel Prize, partly because I’ve never been able to make my mind up about Dylan. At times I see the genius some people credit him with, and at other times I see The Great MacGonagall.

In any case, given his usual intense privacy, his Nobel lecture is surprisingly revealing and personal, an exploration of the words—both in song lyrics and in books—that have influenced him, and springing from “wondering exactly how [his] songs related to literature.”

That’s what songs are too. Our songs are alive in the land of the living. But songs are unlike literature. They’re meant to be sung, not read. The words in Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be acted on the stage. Just as lyrics in songs are meant to be sung, not read on a page. And I hope some of you get the chance to listen to these lyrics the way they were intended to be heard: in concert or on record or however people are listening to songs these days. I return once again to Homer, who says, “Sing in me, oh Muse, and through me tell the story.”

Cormac McCarthy on punctuation

Josh Jones, writing on Open Culture

Careful McCarthy reader Oprah says she “saw a colon once” in McCarthy’s prose, but she never encountered a semicolon. McCarthy confirms: “No semicolons.”

Of the colon, he says: “You can use a colon, if you’re getting ready to give a list of something that follows from what you just said. Like, these are the reasons.”

I recently read No Country for Old Men and noticed that McCarthy’s approach to punctuation led to an awful lot of “and”s. Still, it’s a good writerly exercise to find ways to say things without all those “weird little symbols”.

Gaiman and Ishiguro in Conversation

Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer have been guest editors of this weeks’s New Statesman. Lots of good stuff to read, but top of the pile for me is this conversation between Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro, on literature and genre.


Some time in the Nineties I felt a change of climate in the mainstream literary world. There was a younger generation of writers emerging who I really respected: David Mitchell was one of them. Or my friend Alex Garland, who’s 15 or 16 years younger than me, who became famous for The Beach—he was showing me the screenplays he was writing, one of which was 28 Days Later, which became the renowned zombie movie, and then he wrote Sunshine, about a manned expedition to the sun. Alex told me about graphic novels. He said I had to read Alan Moore and Frank Miller and all these people. So from the Nineties onwards, I sensed that there was a whole generation of people emerging who had a very different attitude to sci-fi, and that there was a new force of energy and inspiration because of that. I may have had the crusty prejudices of somebody of my generation but I felt liberated by these younger writers. Now I feel fairly free to use almost anything. People in the sci-fi community were very nice about Never Let Me Go. And by and large I’ve rather enjoyed my inadvertent trespassing into the fantasy genre, too, although I wasn’t even thinking about The Buried Giant as a fantasy—I just wanted to have ogres in there!

Also noteworthy in the issue: Gaiman’s Credo. Worth spending a Sunday thumbing the virtual pages.