Before e-books: turns 25

CATEGORIES: Uncategorized, founded by Geoffrey Sauer, associate professor of English, celebrates its 25th anniversary this fall. Also known as The English Server, publishes works in the arts and humanities free of charge to online reading audiences worldwide.

Geoffrey Sauer

Sauer created the nonprofit site when he was a doctoral student at Carnegie Mellon University. For the past 11 years, the EServer has been based at Iowa State University, where Sauer is also head of the Rhetoric and Professional Communication area in the English department, an academic unit in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“Some colleagues and I first created the site because e-books didn’t yet exist, and the open source and creative commons movements hadn’t yet been imagined,” Sauer said. “I wanted to make it possible for students and other Internet readers to be able to read quality writings, free of charge. It is one of the oldest continually-running Internet servers I know of.”

Sauer said the site also works to experiment with new and emerging forms of electronic publishing, including a variety of e-book formats, which are fast becoming important to teaching and learning at universities. publishes a wide range of works, from short fiction to poetry, essays and journals in a variety of arts and humanities fields. Publications include a popular edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets, a complete collection of the writings of Henry David Thoreau, and streaming audio and video lectures in the arts and humanities.

Sauer said the server runs using entirely open-source technologies, and was influenced by early writings in the open source movement to try to bring some of the early ideas of free and open source software to works of literature, and many other humanities fields. serves over 2 million readers per month, Sauer said. “Last year was a record year for us; we served 27.1 million readers,” he added, according to log analysis reports the site maintains.

“When I first came to the ISU campus, it was clear to me that ISU’s commitment to serving the public would make it an excellent home for projects such as the EServer,” Sauer said.

For more information, contact Sauer at or see his contact page.