Wednesday, May 16, 2012

21st Century Gutenberg Revolution:
Free eBooks for iPad & Kindle

If I gave in to frustration, I'd be totally bald from pulling out my hair over the ebook dilemma.  The best delivery systems either don't have the titles I want to offer or cost way too much for our little school, or both.  We are "evolving" on this issue, but for now progress is stalled.

When I first got my iPad and began to explore ebooks, I scoffed at friends who were all about free ebook downloads.  "They're all ancient," I thought, "who wants to read that?"  Yes, a librarian who was being a dumbhead about the classics. Gosh, sometimes I am so dense.  In any case, I'm now getting a daily list of all the books in the public domain that have been added to the Project Gutenberg electronic book collection, and you know, there really is some good stuff there!

"Public Domain" is a legal concept -- under United States law, creators (or assignees) automatically own the right to decide what happens to their creative works as long as they live, and the right extends to the creator's estate for 75 more years.  After that, unless an extension has been granted, that creative work goes into the public domain -- it is owned by the people.

Project Gutenberg began in the 1980s as a labor of love by a man named Michael Hart.  Since the beginning, PG volunteers have hand-typed and proof-read thousands of public domain texts, in many languages.  The first PG electronic books were computer only, but now almost every title is available in Kindle, Nook, iPad and other e-reader compatible formats.  Some even include full color illustrations!

Below is just a tiny sample of the public domain books you can download for free from Project Gutenberg.   The annotations are mine (a drawback to the project is that there's no synopsis or other description for any of the titles, so using a few research skills, and Wikipedia, does come in handy).  The PG catalog also includes audiobooks (both human-read and computer-read), and if you'd like to practice reading in  Yiddish, Norwegian, Tagalog, or any of 60+ other written languages, PG has ebooks for you too.

  • A collection of essays, published in 1917, by American music writer and critic James Huneker. Included are essays "In Praise of Unicorns," on George Sand, James Joyce, Henry James, Brahms, Wagner, Cezanne, and "The Great American Novel."
  • Frank V. Webster was a pseudonym controlled by the Stratemeyer Syndicate (publisher of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books). This pseudonym was used on books for boys from the early 1900s through the 1930s. Two Boy Gold Miners was published in 1909.
  • Tom Swift and His Motorcycle; or, Fun and Adventure on the Road  by Victor Appleton. 
    The first book (1910)  in a long-running series from the Stratemeyer Syndicate.  Tom is a teenage genius inventor, modeled after such real-life inventors such as Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, whose adventures have inspired young people from Issac Asimove to Steve Wozniak.  As with so many older books, readers should be aware that ethnic and racial depictions can follow negative stereotypes, and parents may want to be prepared to discuss changes in society since then.
  • Anton Felix Schindler was an associate, secretary, and early biographer of Ludwig van Beethoven. His "Life of Beethoven," first published in 1840, had a great deal of influence on later Beethoven biography. He claimed to have been Beethoven's best friend.
  • 1910 horror story by Algernon Blackwood, one of the most prolific writers of ghost stories in the history of the genre.   In the Canadian wilderness, a hunting party separates to track moose, and one member is abducted by the Wendigo of legend (a malevlolent canibalistic monster, possibly created when a person ate human flesh).
  • The Man in Black by Stanley John Weyman
    Written by an author much celebrated in his time, and later by modern author Graham Greene, The Man in Black is a short and spellbinding Cinderella tale with a monkey, a cruel, crafty-eyed showman and the evil of the man in black, a charlatan and wizard. This is a tale of corruption, abuse of the innocent and the complete destruction of evil by good. One of the most imaginative and clever works by Weyman, it is a magnificent tale.

If you have an eReader, but aren't quite sure how to go about downloading from Project Gutenberg (or for that matter, from your Atlanta area public library), zap me a message, come on by the library and we'll try to get you set up.  It's one of those tricky things that, once you know how, it's not so hard, but a helping hand is really really useful in getting started.

Are you planning to read any classics over the sumer?  On paper, or "pad?" 

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