Last night, following up a reference in another book, I decided I wanted to read George Herbert’s classic work on the role of a Christian minister, The Country Parson. This has been an influential work since its publication in the early 17th century and I was after a free version to read on my Kindle.
It is only a slender volume and most editions seem to be bundled with other writings from the Herbertian oeuvre. None came in at my target price; the closest I could get was 77p. Don’t take that link as a recommendation though; I downloaded a sample and, while it was the right text, very little had been done to make the layout attractively readable. For Kindle users, that sample feature is invaluable. Even with more expensive, recently published works, the layout can sometimes prove to be a reason to resist a purchase and this danger is multiplied in the vast realms of texts that have long passed out of copyright.
My solution was to turn to one of the other search results I had unearthed: an online version from Project Canterbury. If you follow the link at the end of that single HTML page edition of The Country Parson, you will discover a wealth of materials that are sources for understanding the history of Anglicanism. I copied the entire page to a Word document, spent a few minutes formatting it (enlarging the frontispiece graphic to fill the first page and marking each heading with an appropriate style) and then emailed it to the free conversion tool address linked to my Amazon account. A couple of minutes later, I was able to download the resulting file which was a much superior edition.
A few more minutes and I think I could have produced an even better result with a proper table of contents. Perhaps I should set up a business making good quality versions of old devotional texts available? Of course, there is that perpetual stack of reading to finish first (and with Herbert now sitting at the top of it).