Description: A regularly-updated library of curated excerpts from texts in the public domain, and a tool for creating dynamic anthologies. The site would feature not complete works (like Public Domain Review), not quotations, and not just page images, but deliberately selected and edited passages no shorter than a paragraph, no longer than a short article or story, tagged in various ways to create a library of interconnected selections.

  • Passages could be connected by topic, genre, date, location, school of thought or artistic movement, theme, influences -- any commonalities that arise. The goal would be to produce a wide variety of strands, while keeping each on organized enough that users could follow or browse a strand without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Users could subscribe to an RSS feed for regular exposure to new passages; could spread a passage through social media; could reproduce it on their blogs; could save it with Instapaper or Evernote to read later. By excerpting public domain resources in chunks short enough to be widely read and shared, we would be adding thousands of years to the range of ideas, sensibilities, and styles that Internet readers encounter.
  • There could be different RSS feeds for different readerly interests -- one for literary excerpts, another for philosophy, another for poetry, another for weird science, another for famous or "important" texts (such as those that would be included in scholarly print anthologies from publishers like Norton, Longman, or Oxford), and so on.
  • There could be various ways to browse, bookmark, group, share, and comment upon selections.
  • Users could create their own anthologies and browse those created by other users or by experts. In fact, one of the main reasons to build this site is to improve upon the traditional book-bound anthology model.
  • Teachers (many of whom still find it difficult to productively utilize the public domain) could create custom anthologies for their classes.
  • Any user could submit passages that she's gathered on her own, thanks to idiosyncratic interests, experiences, and expertise.
  • This project could coordinate with lots of existing projects, such as Public Domain Review, text collections like Project Gutenberg and Open Archive, curated collections of contemporary readings like Arts & Letters Daily.

Project Coordinator: David Clark

Resources Needed:

  • Help with web development. At its most basic level, this project could be started with a simple CMS like Wordpress; but more in-depth programming would be needed, I think, to implement all the functional possibilities (such as those listed above) that would make the site particularly valuable.
  • Money that would allow for time that could be devoted to content development, to gathering and classifying and editing, etc.
  • Other people interested in hunting out and gathering worthwhile excerpts of works in the public domain.
  • If the site got going, we would need to spread the word to get people interested and active, since the success of the project (beyond just being an RSS feed of public domain excerpts) would depend in part upon a participatory readership.

We agree to the OKF project criteria.

submitted 15 Jan, 19:59

DaveClark's gravatar image

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Hi Dave,

This is a very interesting idea. Have you had a look at the concept for one of the projects that I and others at the OKFN will begin work on in Feb called TEXTUS ( There is some synergy between that and what you suggest, although TEXTUS focusses on full public domain works rather than excerpts. If you're interested I could keep you in the loop about TEXTUS, and we could discuss the possibility of making it support excerpts from public domain texts.

Sam Leon


solved 16 Jan, 09:42

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Sam ♦♦
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Please do keep me in the loop about TEXTUS. You're right that the two projects would be complementary. Work done for TEXTUS (especially transcriptions and translations) could provide material for excerpts. And any excerpt on a public domain "reader" should of course connect the audience to the full text -- so in this case, the excerpt could link to a TEXTUS resource.


solved 16 Jan, 19:06

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I've started working on this project on my own, using Django as the application framework. If anybody is interested in collaborating with me, helping either with coding, data structure, and development or with selecting content, please email me at david dot dave dot clark at gmail.


solved 13 May, 16:47

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Asked: 15 Jan, 19:59

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Last updated: 13 May, 16:47

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