The first eBook was created over 40 years ago, and credit for creating the first one goes to the late Michael Hart. Hart was given a $100,000 credit on an IBM mainframe computer in 1971, and decided to use this credit to develop an electronic storage, retrieval, and search system of library books – unheard of at the time – and created the first eBook. What was that title? The Declaration of Independence!
This initial beginning launched what is now called Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) – a site that has over 53,000 eBooks available on its site, with affiliate / linking sources to over 100,000 eBooks on it – and all of them are free, and most are available in a variety of eBook reader formats.
When is the last time you hit the Project Gutenberg site for free eBooks? If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend it.
All of the content is in the public domain, and the majority of the titles I have seen are available in the Kindle format –each title has been painstakingly typed up and proofed by a group of worldwide volunteers. I have rediscovered many titles I enjoyed reading growing up plus many more I have never been exposed.
As a resident of the USA, a complaint I often hear – and agree with – is the extraordinary long time things can be protected by copyright in the USA yet in the public domain (and free) elsewhere in the world. You can’t legally download and read certain titles in the USA if they are in the public domain in other countries but still in copyright in the USA. A good example of that is Australia – many things are in the public domain in Australia but still protected in the USA.
Which brings me to a listing of other “sister” Project Gutenberg across the globe (this is not meant to be an all-encompassing list):
Project Gutenberg of Australia
As a general rule the works of authors who died before 1955 are in the public domain in Australia. Works by George Orwell (died 1950), Virginia Woolf (died 1941), and James Joyce (died 1941), just to name a few authors, are in the public domain in Australia but not in the USA.
Of course, works which are in the public domain in Australia may remain copyrighted in other countries – even for several decades. People may not download, or read online, such works if they are in a country where they are still under copyright. That still leaves a lot of readers out there to enjoy eBooks of some of the greatest literary works of the twentieth century.
Project Gutenberg of Australia also provides a list all of the Project Gutenberg eBooks (from both the US and Australian Collections) which were written by Australians or which relate (although loosely) to Australia, and has an extensive collection of books by and about the land and sea explorers who opened up the continent to white settlement.
Project Gutenberg of Canada
Projekt Gutenberg DE
Projekt Gutenberg-DE (http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/) provides German literature. Currently run by a for-profit organization (Hille + Partner GbR), PG-DE provides free eBooks via their Web site, as well as selling eBooks on CD or DVD. PG-DE runs their own Distributed Proofreaders site for content they distribute, and claims copyright on their work.
Reading These Titles
You can read Project Gutenberg eBooks on your computer, or transfer them to your Kindle. If you download a Kindle book from the site, you will need to transfer it to your computer to your Kindle. Click here or type in http://smarturl.it/xfer into your web browser to read my post on how to do that procedure – this is the same text of the title I charge 99 cents for in the Amazon Kindle store, but the blog readers can read it for free.
So, go check out Project Gutenberg and discover / rediscover a classic!
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