The Internet is pretty big, so from time-to-time we get mentions in far and exotic places: New Zealand, Vietnam, Paris, etc. However, this mention in Poland’s premier paper, the Gazeta Wyborcza, really rocked our world. Maybe it’s because Travis and Aaron both lived in Krakow, Poland for a while. Maybe it’s because Google autotranslates BookGlutton from Polish as the “devourer of books” and we are emboldened. Or maybe it gives us an excuse for a return visit? Our friend, Tom Crestodina, kindly translated the story for us.

Anna Arno for Gazeta Wybocza, July 27 2009

The internet is no longer just for reading news and blogs: there are also free books available. For all those people who like to write notes in margins and discuss lectures, there is now a new internet portal called BookGlutton.

The progenitor of BookGlutton (Polish: pożeracz książek) is California native Travis Alber, the creator of numerous artistic projects on the web, including a cycle of 30 haiku poems about San Francisco illustrated with animations. She came up with the idea for BookGlutton out of her need to share opinions with friends who had moved away.

BookGlutton.com lets users make their own notes in the margins of any page of the book they are reading on the web. The notes can be kept private, but the site also allows users to form groups and exchange opinions, sharing their impressions and clarifying more difficult expressions for each other. Readers of Ulysses explain its allusions to Shakespeare or quotations from Latin to one another; someone elucidates, for example, what exactly “Omphalos” means and just who a “Hyperborean” might be.

The site has already been met with appreciation among teachers. New York University professor Jessamyn Hatcher has opened a BookGlutton group for her students, who, while reading King Lear, chat and prepare themselves for class discussions. A group of middle school students also uses BookGlutton in their advanced summer literature course.

Currently there are about 1,500 free books available at BookGlutton. They include classics of English-language literature including the novels of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, the short stories of Jack London, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books, but there are also romances and thrillers, cookbooks and gardening guides. Users can upload their own virtual libraries, making the portal a fantastic tool for beginning writers, who can submit their own works to be read and exchange opinions about them. BookGlutton is a parter of WordClay, which helps authors self-publish their own works.

Book Glutton can also be added as a plug-in on private pages and you can chat about it between sites. BookGlutton’s books can also be opened on iPods and iPhones.

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