Aolib.comFragment of Saint Jerome - by Caravaggio

Using aolib.com


Using aolib.com boils down to the following:

This page explains how to all of the above better.

How to Select a Book

Even though there is Books section on aolib.com, it is not the best or easiest way to pick a book to read.

Instead of browsing all the books, it is way better to start with Genres, get list of subjects comprising that genre (or books tagged with that genre — every genre has links to such lists), and then search it for the book you'd want to read.

You can, of course, start with with the list of subjects directly, so to say... But please think of this: suppose, you're looking for a good detective. If you start with the genre of detective, you'll see 10 subjects comprising that genre, only six of which start with Detective.... If you browsed list of subjects looking for Detective, you could have missed four of 10 subjects — there are 8,719 subjects in our library as of today, after all.

Alternatively, you may want to try our Advanced Search, which not only supports many advanced features like natural language book contents search, but also some unique features like boolean genre search — be sure to check its Genre Assistant.

Whatever search method you use, you end up with a list of books. Each item of that list contains "Read the book (NN pages)" link. Click on that link, and the book will be loaded into Reader, and (if you are logged in) your choice will be remembered, so that next time you switch to the Reader your last read book will be loaded into it automatically, and you will get to the last read page.

What Else You Can Do with the Book You Found

When you read a book, you see book title at the top of the Reader page. You can click on that title to see various information — author(s), genres, subjects this book belongs too, etc. All these references are links, so with just one click you can get list of all the books of the author, all books belonging to same genres and/or subjects, etc. In other words, it is very easy to find other books of the same kind.

Moreover, there is a link to the same book at The Gutenberg Project site, on which the book is also available in MOBI and other formats for portable ebook readers. The Gutenberg site is not as convenient as aolib.com for searching and online reading (let alone instant translation or Wikimedia lookup), but if you are only interested in downloadable ebooks for your portable reader, you may want to search aolib.com, find the book, and use Gutenberg link that we provide to get the book in your preferred format.

You can bookmark any page you read by simply clicking on the « Bookmark this page link right below the login box. Please note that this will not add a bookmark to your browser's Favourites list. Instead, it will add a bookmark to the list kept at aolib.com and managed through your bookshelf, which is better that your browser's list in several respects; for instance, if you upload your own book, then bookmark some of its pages, and then delete the book, aolib.com will take care of those bookmarks automatically, while they would be left dangling in your browser.

Also, while reading a book, it is possible to select one of the five font sizes, with the smallest matching normal font used on this site, and biggest being big enough for most people with poor eyesight — just click on those + Use larger fonts or – Use smaller fonts page menu items. Please note that this setting only affects the book reader page.

Finally, the Reader has keyboard interface: pressing '>' key switches to next page (turns page), '<' switches to previous page, '+' selects larger font (if it's not selected already), and '' selects smaller font.

How to Upload Own Books

You can upload a book in TXT (plain text) or HTML format and then select is for reading using bookshelf. If you book is not in a plain text or HTML format, you have to convert it first; if, say, it's in a Microsoft Word DOC or DOCX format file, save it in plain text format, and then upload.

When you upload a book, it is first compiled (processed) by aolib.com server, and only then added to your bookshelf. Compilation is necessary to break it down into paragraphs and pages, and to detect and emphasize (with special formatting) such text elements as book and chapters' headers, direct speach, and so on. While subdividing your book into paragraphs, the compiler uses format tags in HTML files, or black lines and indentation in plain text files; it is pretty flexible in this respect.

Contrary to what you might expect, aolib.com book compiler may produce much better and natural formatting if given plain text file instead of HTML (that is, if you load an HTML file into browser, save it as a TXT file, and then upload both, chances are the latter will look better in the aolib.com reader). This is because aolib.com performs extensive analysis and applies numerous heuristics to figure out what is paragraph, what is header etc. in a plain text file, while in an HTML file it only uses its subdivision into paragraphs, and does not even try to guess the rest.

Registered users can add up to three books to their bookshelves. When you upload a book, you specify:

  • Book file. This is the only required field. The uploader will handle plain text or HTML files in DOS (Windows), UNIX, or Mac encoding. If the book contains non-ASCII characters (say, French or German letters), it has to use code page 1252 (Latin I), or else those non-ASCII characters will become unreadable.
  • Book author. If entered name matches an author whose books are already in aolib.com collection, then, after you upload the book, author's name (on the bookshelf list) will be represented with a link. If you follow that link, you will see what other books by that author are in the aolib.com collection. Note though that the name you enter must strictly match spelling used by aolib.com; for instance, you must enter Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or sir arthur conan doyle to link to the author of The Hound of the Baskervilles. It is OK, of course, to enter it as, say, just A. C. Doyle, but the link won't be generated (it's very easy to check exact spelling by going to search page, entering, say, Doyle in the Book author(s) field and browsing the list of books that the search brings). You can even leave this field blank — the field would then be filled with User (your name).
  • Book title. If left blank, it will contain New book. You can edit this field (as well as Book author) later; see note below.
  • Number of lines per page. This is approximate value, of course. It is used once, by book compiler during upload process, and cannot be changed later.

If you want to add another book to your bookshelf, you will have to delete one of the previously uploaded books first; to do that, follow the Edit My Bookshelf link, select the checkbox(es) to the left of the book(s) you want to delete, then apply the Delete selected items action, and then the Save changes action. It is important to understand that the changes you do to your bookshelf must be saved to take effect. If you do any changes to your bookshelf and then go to another aolib.com page (or another site, for that matter), then when you go to the bookshelf page next time, you will see unmodified list. The same applies, of course, not only to deleting items from the list, but also to arranging them (moving up/down).

How to Translate

Usually aolib.com translates (or rather explains) one word at a time — the one on which you double-click. However, you may also want to look-up several words as a phrase or, contrary, translate just one word from a phase which is an HTML reference (so that when you try to click on any individual word of it, entire phrase/link is selected anyway). In such a case, please select text to translate with cursor and then click the Dictionary menu item in the Lookup page menu section that you can see on the right.

Menu items below Dictionary are Wikipedia lookup, Custom dictionary lookup, and Help lookup (this is what you are reading now). Wikipedia may come handy when you, say, want to know more about some person, or place, or anything else mentioned in a book. Imagine you are reading Akbar, Emperor of India by Richard von Garbe and want to know more about Akbar... All you need to do is to select Akbar and click Wikipedia — you will be taken directly to this Wikipedia article.

Custom dictionary defaults to Wiktionary, which is remarkable in great many ways — for many words, you can find not only their explanations, but also etymology and pronunciation, sometimes even as audio clips with American English, British English, as well as other variants. As valuable as it is, it may still be not what you want, so we made it configurable; more on this below, in next Help section.

Note that when you double-click a word (or select it and click Dictionary) to look it up using internal dictionary, the word usually stays selected — so, if you need more information than aolib's internal dictionary can offer, you should click on Wikipedia or Wiktionary menu item to go to external site right away, with aolib's explanation pane still being On.

Please understand that aolib.com is not another online translation service similar to Babelfish or Google Translate. Even if you select several words, aolib.com will still try to translate them as a single dictionary entry, and the same, of course, applies to Wikipedia and Wiktionary lookups. So if you, say, try to translate Church of Rome, aolib.com will give you correct definition. But if you try something like But the Church of Rome evinced little interest, aolib.com will give up immediately. And this is by design: first of all, aolib.com rather explains (in that same English) than translates. Second, even if we had means of translating texts to every possible language, we still wouldn't be doing that — aolib.com is meant to be assisting you in translation and/or understanding, so that you could learn in the process. We ourselves found this to be the most exciting and efficient way.

Profile and Customization

Site customization is available to registered users only. Respective page is pretty simple and self-explanatory — provided that you are logged in and see actual customization options, and not the comprehensive list of benefits for registered users... Anyway, lets go throught the fields of User Profile one by one.

  • Display name. This must be 2 to 32 characters long, start with a letter, and contain only letters, digits, underscores, or hyphens. The fact that the name cannot be changed after registration is, of course, not an arbitrary restriction: we plan on adding forums and/or online word games (with obligatory high score lists) in the near future, so such restriction will become a necessity. And we're keen not to introduce new restrictions as we go, as this is never received well by the online community.
  • Email address. It is necessary to provide a valid email address to which you have access, because upon registration we will send confirmation email there, and you will have to click on a link to confirm registration (please note that there will be another link in the message that will allow you to cancel registration and remove all previously submitted data from aolib.com database). We just want to be more or less sure we're dealing with human beings here...
  • Password. This must be at least 6 (and at most 32) characters long and may consist of lower- and uppercase letters, digits, and special characters like '$' or '%'. Please note that aolib.com does not store its users' passowrds. Instead, we store so-called hash codes of the passowords, wchich allow us to tell whether password provided during log-in is correct or not; this approach is known to be much more secure. We also do not use any security questions — these could be too easy to break. So... if you forget your password, we cannot email it to you, but we can do something better (at least safer): we will generate a temporary password for you, and send it to your email address. If this ever happens, please be sure to change your password once you log in using temporary one, for security reasons.
  • Remember me. Keeping this checkbox ticked (as it is by default) will allow you not to re-enter email and password each time you visit aolib.com — you will be logged in automatically. Highly recommended.
  • On auto-login, take me directly to the reader There is just one reason why this convenient option is off by default: so that not to confuse you, because when this option is turned on, it will automatically take you to the last read book page even if you enter just www.aolib.com in your browser's address bar the first time you do so since you started your browser. Please note that if you, say, bookmark (in your web browser) a book's page, and then, some time later, open your browser and select that bookmark, aolib.com will understand that you're opening some book's page, and will not switch you to the last read one.
  • User dictionary URL. By default this equals to http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/*. What happens when you select some text and click U is this: aolib.com replaces asterisk ('*') in the URL with selected text, and opens that URL in a separate window. Therefore, if you want to use another external online dictionary, simply use its URL with asterisk as word placeholder.
  • What kind of examples should be shown along with definitions. This controls whether to show examples which actually illustrate synonyms of the current word rather than the word itself, or wherer to show examples at all.
  • Show synonyms and antonyms along with definitions. Turning this off makes definitions look more compact; but it also makes them less informative.
  • Show topic, usage, and regon information. Ticking this checkbox turns on display of categories the word belongs to.
  • Display See Also tips. Turns On or Off display of the links to related words.
  • Display verb frames. A very useful option which, if turned On, would enable display of so-called verb frames, also known a verb usage patterns. The verb frames would be displayed as links in the dictionary inset; clicking them would unfold list of frames (patterns).
  • Maximum number of definitions per word per part of speach. Limits visible number of definitions; might come handy when viewing our dictionary on a small screen.
  • Look-up these dictionaries. Allows to enable/disable English-English and English-Russian dictionaries.
  • Illustrations of what size should be shown if you click on an icon. This controls the size of a bigger illustration that opens up if you click illustration icon within definition.
  • What kinds of illustrations are allowed. Allows to tailor illustraions for the target audience (kids, sensitive people, adults).
  • Prefer photographs over drawings. Sets relative priorities of drawings vs photographs. If more than one illustration is available for a word definition, then only first one is shown as an icon, but it is possible to switch to next one by clicking on a dotted line to the right of the icon; which illustration is shown first, which next, etc. is defined by this option.
  • Site skin (color scheme). One of the most exciting customization options of aolib.com. Please note that it is called skin and not, say, a color scheme for a purpose; it is not just re-coloring, many elements change their sizes as well. And even if some things stay the same for different schemes, it is because we liked them that way — the underlying mechanics allows to change everything, and we plan to add many different skins, at an appropriate time. Meanwhile, you may want to look here for samples of existing skins.
  • Font size for the book reader. It is possibly to pick one of the five font sizes. This is one of the very few settings at aolib.com that can be changed not only on Profile page, but also directly on the reader page, and it affects the book reader page only.
  • Allowed advertisement types. The default is to show both textual and image ads. Registered users can pick text-only ads if they find image ads (still images or Flash animations) distracting or annoying, or graphics-only (rich media) ads if they find textual ads boring. :-)
  • Show less tips and hints. When checked, on many pages this option does not show extra explanatory text that might be unnecessary for an experienced aolib.com user. If you try this option, you'll see its effect right on the Profile page.
  • Send me site news emails. Enable this if you want to be provided with a nice extra little service of email updates — we would inform you about any new site features and contents, and that's it. This is what is all about. Here is what we say about those news emails elsewhere on this site:
    These notifications can, of course, be disabled, but please note that our promise to you is that we will only send them when we have actual news about aolib.com (so no Nothing new today, but here is this AMAZING and plainly UNBELIEVABLE offer from our sponsors!!! type of... stuff), and we will keep them concise and strictly to the point.

Oh, and by the way... We certainly hope that you are reading all this out of pure curiosity and not because you actually did not understand something at aolib.com — we took every effort to make sure the site is as simple, convenient, and easy to use as humanly possible. On the other hand, as they say, Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler. <sigh>... Amen.

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