A new program from the University of California’s digital library will make more than 1,400 books from UC Press available for free online.

The eScholarship Editions collection, completed last week, represents about a third of the UC Press books in print, plus more than 300 out-of-print titles. The books cover a wide range of subjects including art, science, history, music, religion and fiction. California Digital Library, which is based at the UC Office of the President, spent over a year converting the books into XML – or Extensible Markup Language – format.

Project Manager of eScholarship Editions Felicia Poe said the XML format makes the online editions much more flexible and useful than they would be using other formats, such as the Portable Document Format, also known as PDF.

“Using XML we can chunk the book into chapters and smaller portions, and if a student had something like a PDA, they can feed straight into it,” Poe said. “You also can print out specific portions or chapters, and search within an entire book for any term.”

Poe said companies working to develop hand-held “e-book” readers use the XML format.

“This is a technology that is going to go far,” she said. “If we were going to do this, we felt it was important to do it right.”

Four hundred of the eScholarships Editions are available to all readers, but the majority are available only from computers on UC campuses. Poe said editions that are currently available only to UC faculty and students would become available to everyone once they are “about two years old.”

The eScholarships Editions can be found online at http://texts.cdlib.org/escholarship/.