Early Morning Readers: If this appears to be the same column you read yesterday, then please click here to see what wound up being yesterday’s column – we switched them.

I have the estimable Brooks Hilliard to thank for this one. It’s a peek into the future – but also a way to get free books right now. (You supply the paper if you want to print them out.) Ever read 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea? Want your kid to read Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn? Aesop’s Fables? How about Adventures and Letters of Richard Harding Davis? (He was the ultimate foreign correspondent at the turn of the century.)

Amazingly, these things download very fast, at least when you choose “plain text.” And while the selection is still very limited – so this is more of an amusement than something you are likely to rely on to buy books – it is, as I say, a taste of the future.

Check it out: www.1stbooks.com.

Of course, most of the books you’ll find there come under the heading of “cheap” rather than free.

According to Brooks, who has researched this for his own monthly e-newsletter, “authors earn a 40% royalty on sales, which – even at low prices – is often more per book than they get from traditional publishers. Most books are available for downloading in a choice of formats including Adobe Acrobat (which preserves the original ‘look’) and one or more word processing formats. In either case, the buyer can either print them out or read them on screen. Because First Books has no significant incremental costs for each sale other than the author’s royalty, it can keep most of its prices under $10.”

And now, as if free books were not enough for one day’s free column, how about free Brooks? Namely, a free subscription to his newsletter, CEO’s Web Review? Just click here to see his page and then, if you’re interested, have it e-delivered on the 20th of every month. It’s succinct and one of the few e-newsletters I find short and sweet enough to be welcome.



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