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Trawling for Texts
By Rob Pegoraro

Washington Post Staff Writer
September 5, 1997

Among the sometimes inconvenient aspects of a new semester at college, there's the whole buying-books thing. Especially when the books you'e bought have been around for thousands of years it's as if Plato makes any extra money off the copy of "The Republic" you just bought. Fortunately, scholars and activists have been stockpiling books online in plain-text formats since the '70s, making them freely available for anybody to download (copyrights on these works have all expired). The preeminent site in this category is Project Gutenberg (, whose organizers aim to put their 10,000th book online by 2001; Carnegie-Mellon University's English Server ( is another well-organized collection of public-domain texts. While I wouldn't want to read, say, "War and Peace" onscreen (it's a 3.1 meg file!), these archives can still be handy resources for the time-cramped: It's a lot quicker to search a book's text in a word processor than it is to wrestle with the average index.

-Rob Pegoraro (

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