Yesterday I told you how you could buy books (physical ones) cheaper than Amazon – guaranteed – and earn “bookmarks” in the process. Last week, though, I was touting free books (albeit really old ones, minus paper and bindings). As usual, several of you knew a lot more about this than I did.
Wrote Andrew Tefft: “For more free books, check out the Project Gutenberg web page at http://sailor.gutenberg.org/. This is what I thought your column would be about when I read its title. Project Gutenberg books (including all those you mentioned) are in the public domain and thus can be offered free by anyone, and downloaded free from many places. Comparing the formatting of 20,000 Leagues from Project Gutenberg and 1stbooks.com, they appear identical (file names, line breaks, heading spacing) but half of the last paragraph is chopped off (same problem with all the other ones I looked at) in the 1stbooks version, so I can’t tell if they retained the list of changes added by the Project Gutenberg editor. In other words, 1stbooks is getting at least some of these from Project Gutenberg – but where is the credit for the hard work of those volunteers? Does 1stbooks contribute anything back to the project? If they do, they keep it secret. Someone not familiar with Project Gutenberg is led to believe that the people at 1stbooks typed in or scanned these texts themselves.
“Naturally there someday may be a market for non-public-domain e-texts, but if you’re going to get the public domain ones now, the Gutenberg Project deserves to be supported. Monetarily, by volunteering, or just by spreading the word. Am I just complaining about capitalism at work? Perhaps – but the scores of volunteers helping Project Gutenberg can get a lot more books online than any company is going to be able to afford to do, whether it’s giving the result away or selling it.”
Meanwhile, Pieter Lessing writes that he not only uses Project Gutenberg, but that he downloads titles from the Internet “in a form usable by PalmPilots – I carry two full novels on my PalmPilot at the moment – handy while waiting at the carwash!”
In my view, this can mean only one thing. He is either a very fast reader or has a very dirty car.