gopher to rsl.ox.ac.uk
You've seen directories of electronic texts before, so what makes Alex different? It's the first directory to tie several collections of e-texts together and actually look like an OPAC. This ambitious project allows users to retrieve the full text of over 900 titles (but not serials) from Project Gutenberg, Wiretap, the On-line Book Initiative, the Eris system at Virginia Tech, the English Server at Carnegie Mellon, the online portion of the Oxford Text Archive, Project Bartleby at Columbia, and Project Runeberg in Sweden. Note that not ALL of the texts are actually available to the searcher; I tried to retrieve the Constitution of the United States and was presented with "Sorry Dude, we don't allow off-site access to this server."
Alex was created by Hunter Monroe, an economist with some prior experience working with library catalogs. Since its inception, several additional "helpers" have signed on. The database will be updated on a weekly basis.
When you first access Alex (born July 1994) you'll be
presented with four menu items: 1) Electronic Texts
alphabetized by Author, 2) by Title, 3) Cataloguing Internet
Resources, and 4) an Index. The screens are
slightly cluttered because author's names conform to LC authority headings, including dates (though you're not looking at actual MARC records).
Some headers give a clue as to the size of the file (ex. 507K), but most do not. The README contains the warning that "many of the files referenced here are large - greater than half a Megabyte - and may take you a long time to retrieve". Believe it. The cataloging menu option is interesting in that it contains a list of documents/reports that discuss (what else?) cataloging the Internet. This is an idea catalogers (and others) have been discussing ever since they found the chaotic Internet, and this is a great place to get up to speed on their discussions.
Paul R. Pival
Collection Development/Reference Librarian
Christopher Newport University
Newport News, VA 23606
August 20 1994