Penn State's Electronic Classics Series

Frequently Asked Questions

This page provides answers to some of the more frequently asked questions that we receive about Penn State's Electronic Classics Series. If you have a question, please submit them to us. We enjoy hearing from readers and the curious.

Frequently Asked Questions:

  1. Who reads these files? Our readers include students on the Hazleton campus, faculty from other Penn State campuses and graduate students from as far away as Florida. We've also heard from readers in England. We don't keep a count of our readers, but we are impressed by their variety. UPDATE: Since we last answered this question, we have heard from readers in Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, India, Australia, Norway, Canada, New Zealand and a number of other countries around the globe.
  2. Most of the files could just as easily be found in cheap, even free books; why publish them as electronic files? We began with that question. We are book lovers ourselves. Many centuries of evolution have gone into the development of books, and reading lengthy text on screen doesn't yet compare to holding and reading a book. But some people have made the move and even tell us they prefer accessing the written word in this fashion. For them, and for those who might come to great literature in English only through the web, we have chosen to do this. UPDATE: With the hoopla that has come out recently about ebooks, this question might seem dated, but it is still very much worth asking and answering.
  3. Why publish these works in Adobe's ® PDF format? Initially we considered publishing the classics in HTML, which has been done in many places with great success, but HTML files appear differently depending on which browser is used and which platform the user is accessing the files from and what the quality of the video equipment is. PDF files are far more uniform than HTML files. In addition, although generally larger than HTML files, PDF files are actually easier to save to disk. Finally, PDF files allow us to generate a layout that more closely resembles a book and thus the reading experience comes closer to what readers have expereinced in other formats. And one more "finally": PDF files generally print much better than HTML files. In fact PDF is becoming the format of choice for prepress production. UPDATE: As you may already be aware, Adobe has recently started distributing a new format (actually a slightly differnt Reader) that does not allow printing or saving files to disk; Microsoft has also begun to distribute its own Reader which has the same restrictions.
  4. How does the copyright work? Aren't these texts in the public domain?  The texts themselves are public domain. However, the PDF files, strictly speaking, are not. And Penn State is NOT providing them as replacements for more traditional texts. Students, for instance, who take a course and are required to have access to a specific publication of a work of literature should not consider one of these publications as an adequate substitute. Nor should any publisher attempt to use the PDF files for the purposes of mass producing the publications either for profit or for any other purpose. Any individual is free to access, save to a digital device or print one copy for private use any or all the files we offer.
  5. How does ECS pick the authors and works it publishes?The work we publish - other than our contemporary authors series and the work published in Palimpsest and Best of Four - is all free of copyright. That means the work is of a classical nature, or at least pre-World War II. It is scanned and produced as ASCII. This means that the work must be scanned from texts that are themselves free of copyright, or that the copyright has expired on and no one has applied for a new one. Two issues are paramount in our decision about what to publish: 1) they must be free of copyright, and 2) they must be of literary/historical merit. Some of the latter, such as Shakeseare, speak for themselves; others may be less well known but have influenced important writers and publication in easily accessible PDF forrmat makes them available to a new audience of readers who might otherwise either not have access to them or choose not to seek them out.
  6. I have trouble printing the PDF files; what could be the problem? The first thing to do is make sure you are not clicking on the browser's icon or using "File" and then "Print" in the browser's drop-down menu. You must use the Reader's icon or menu commands. However the easiest way to insure successful printing is to save the file to disk and then print the file. We also recommend that you have Adobe's latest version of the Reader or full version of Acrobat installed. Finally, if you are trying to print from a network printer, you should make sure that the network administrator allows printing of PDF files from within the Web browser.
  7. I like ECS's layout, but for printing I'd prefer to have the files in portrait rather than landscpe form. Is there a way to get my printer to do this? Unfortunately, we're afraid you cannot do that simply by directing the Reader to print in portrait. You will have to reformat the complete text of the file or the pages you wish to print in the full Acrobat version. This can be very time consuming. We have laid out our texts in landscape because we envision most of our readers accessing them on monitors rather than printing them. Almost all of our texts are readily available in inexpensive paperback editions or available at your local library. However, we very seriously appreciate that most readers prefer reading long material in paper rather than on screen. UPDATE: We think that you will agree that Acrobat Reader or better yet the full Acrobat program are far supurior to either of the new readers available for free download. UPDATE: Recently, more people have been buying eBooks and reading them on electronic readers. In addition, we have learned that many people still prefer to print our files and read them. Consequently we have started publishing new texts in both portrait and landscape format. Older texts are being updated to both formats as time allows.
  8. Is there a way to receive regular update notification when new files are added? Certainly. Just send us an email at and state that you'd like to be added to the "Public ECS Newsletter." It's published irregularly, as we upload new electronic books. 
Thank you for your interest. We hope we have been helpful.
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