A year in Internet time, in 2002 anyway, seems like a geological age: in the year or so since this site's launch, the evolution of the Internet and the free software movement has moved with impressive speed. E-commerce is hurting, but the e-book seems ever more present...
Our ideas of what the f-book is and might become have had to keep pace; that's why you'll probably find more than one contradictory idea of just what the thing is on this site. That's okay by us; we're more interested in the movement, the growth, and the perpetually unfinished nature of our business than we are in getting our party line straight.
Nonetheless, for those of you unfamiliar with our ideas -- and we're not pretending that our site has taken over the world! -- we'd like to try to explain to you what it is this site is about. The name obviously owes something to its "competitor" the e-book. But don't let that similarity fool you; we're only interested in one thing, and that's improving the creative drive and the breadth of dissemination of free online texts.
It's a big sector. There are zillions of literary websites out there, from personal-page shrines to writers known and unknown to massive sites like Project Gutenberg. We can't keep track of it all. But there's the raison d'ętre for this site: no one is keeping track of it, really. So into the breach we go, and with a little help we hope to make this site a combination historical-record/link-library presenting the most exciting developments in online publishing. As long as they're freely created, and free to read.
Ah, the naming of the thing! No easy task. The first thing to understand is, an f-book used to mean exclusively an online critical edition. Because that was -- and is -- our main area of concentration, being as it is the aristocracy of publishing, so to speak. So if you'd stopped by about a year ago, that's what you would have heard us say. You can still hear us saying it, for that matter, in some of our older musings on the perspectives page.
But while we remain passionate about Internet critical edition (it's the cornerstone of our link library pages), we have tried to separate that passion from its close relative: free culture and science, or more exactly, the distribution of culture and science as permitted by the Internet, supported through means that allow you the user to read the results -- i.e., the publication -- for the bargain price of zero (insert your currency here).
So... Let's try to define the f-book, shall we?
(NOTE: If you've browsed around our site, you may have seen that we privilege the online critical edition; its criteria are slightly more strict than what follows. Complicated? Yes, we know.)
What is an f-book?
And so why sell it? Why call a thing finished enough to sell, when commercialization means you risk stunting its growth? Well, that's all in the interests of commerce. Which leads us to...
What isn't an f-book?
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Definitions are naturally cagey beasts. And we're not pretending to have ours down pat. In any case, we're sure you might have some objections or fuzzy spots in response to what we've said so far. Here are our guesses as to what they might be, along with a word or two about the site in general.
Do you guys have something against e-books in general?
No. Not really. Other than what's spelled out above.
Oh, so it's just commerce in general you're against?
No. Definitely not. The point is not to stamp out commerce; the Internet, as movements from GNU and Linux to MIT OpenCourseWare will affirm, doesn't have to have anything to do with commerce. The point is to let the Internet develop itself, rather than having commerce playing backseat driver. Commerce didn't invent the Internet, did it?
True, it didn't. But commerce has footed the bill for a lot of the innovation.
Sure. You're right. And it will continue to do so. We'd just like to see more resources -- especially public ones -- devoted to said innovation. And if your work is paid for, why do you then have to turn around and sell the results?
Uh-oh. Sounds like we're getting into dangerous politico-philosophical territory here.
Agreed. Let's talk about something else.
Okay. Is it true that you've copyrighted the term "f-book"?
Yes. We didn't want it taken away from us, as such. By, you know. Commerce.
Oh. So why is there so much Hungarian and French on the site?
Most of the team is Hungarian. Especially Professor Horváth, whose silly idea this whole thing was. And he has some ties to France as well. Currently teaches in Paris, in fact. A lot of what we've written on the subject just hasn't been translated yet. It will be, eventually. All the earth-shattering stuff, anyway.
So then why is the site in English?
So that a maximum number of people can read it. That, and its current rédacteur is American. So there you go.
You guys aren't revolutionaries or anything, are you?
Not really. We're mostly university types gone bad. In case you hadn't guessed. Not that we would mind the term "f-book" becoming a household word. But we're just getting started here.
Well. I think that about wraps it up.
What do you think about the site?
I like some of what you're saying. Some of it I'm not sure about.
Well, would you be willing to give us a hand?
What do you mean?
Getting the word out. We'd really like people to see this site, and help us make it better. We like being linked to. We really like feedback. And we'd especially like to improve our link libraries. So if you know any top-notch sites in the world of literature and/or science, especially critical editions, how about sending them along to us? And if you have more questions to add here, you can send those too. And then, you know. Tell your friends to swing by.
I think I could do that.
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The f-Book Campaign is launched by the BIÖP at the Eötvös Loránd University of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, based on an idea from Iván Horváth. The BIÖP produces critical editions of literary works. The website was developed by the department's collaborators including András Tóth (site planning) and Róbert Karsai (site planning, design, programming). The core of the f-book directory is based on three freely available BIÖP titles.
The free scientific-publishing model described in our manifesto seems to be in fine form. A new title has been added to our member-site library: A History of Education (in Hungarian) by Béla Pukánszky and András Németh. The f-book website has undergone a thorough makeover, and new services have been added.
Now being managed and developed by David Irving, the site has gotten another makeover, this time changing the focus and look considerably, in keeping with the evolving idea of the f-book. The site now better reflects the two-headed nature the "movement" has taken on:
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