British Library launch classic book reading app

Image of the fourth edition of 'Pictorial Tour Round India' from the British Library app Readers can "flick" through pages from historic early or first editions

A "treasure trove" of more than 60,000 19th Century books is being made available by the British Library in a new iPad application.

The paid-for app will be launched in full this summer, but until then a thousand titles can be browsed for free.

All titles are in the public domain, and include Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist.

Unlike e-books, the app uses scanned copies of original editions.

Its creators say this gives readers the best way to experience old books the way the classic authors intended - including additions like pull-out maps and original illustrations.

The app was created in conjunction with Bibliolabs, a development company specialising in distributing old books digitally.

The company's founder, Mitchell Davis, said: "iPad allows for a level of intimacy with these antiquarian books that evokes a sense of engagement and curiosity that is not possible in a browser based experience."

A map of Copenhagen from a scanned book at the British Library The app contains extras not found in e-books, like this map of Copenhagen from a traveller's guide

The British Library says the app is part of a larger effort to make more of its historic collections available to a bigger audience.

"These books provide a wealth of historical, scientific and cultural content for the researcher and more general enthusiast alike, and this project helps bring them to life," said Caroline Brazier, the British Library's director of scholarship and collections.

A spokesman added that other formats, including Android, are being looked at for the project in the future.

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