In yesterday’s post, I gave you a link on the best selling public domain titles on the Amazon Kindle store. If you missed it, you can click here. With that search term, I had it rank the public domain titles by bestselling. As I type this, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the #1 rated public domain title and it is also the #4 book in the Amazon Kindle store: I imagine a lot of this ranking has to do with the successful movie out right now that is setting the box office on fire. Basically, you can get twelve adventures Sherlock Holmes for free. Not a bad deal, but all public domain titles in the Kindle store are created equally. Personally, this version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is frustrating.
The book was converted to electronic format by a team of volunteers, probably from the archives of Project Gutenberg, which is an excellent resource to find free material. However, a lot of the formatting leaves a lot to be desired – there isn’t, for example, an active table of contents. What does that mean? Well, while there is a table of contents listed, you can’t click on any of the twelve titles and have your Kindle immediately jump to it – you would have to keep pressing the “Next Page” tab a few hundred times if you wanted to go to Book VI, The Man With The Twisted Lip.
There are versions out there that have been formatted by entrepreneurs that do have an active table of contents, and if you click here (or if you prefer your computer’s web browser try this link: http://tinyurl.com/yggu8zh) here is a version that is formatted with an active table of contents. It’s ranked a lowly 234,979 out of almost 400,000 tiltes, which means it sells about 1 copy a month. However, if I wanted to go to Book VI, The Man With The Twisted Lip with this version of the book I could select the Table of Contents, maneuver to the appropriate chapter, and get to where I wanted to be in about three clicks vs. who knows how many times. The only difference is I would have to pay 99 cents (and I did) for that version of the book to have the active table of contents option. Sometimes it is worth it to me, and other times it isn’t.
Other annoying variations of some of the public domain books out there (but not the free version of Sherlock Holes) include bad formatting – from random page breaks, words cutoff, and what I consider the worst of all – a scanned PDF submitted as a book that doesn’t display correctly on a Kindle 2 or was such a bad scan the first few lines at the top and the bottom few lines have been cut off entirely. I’ve been burned on that a few times, but to me that is one of the good things about Amazon’s refund feature of eBooks: you have a period of time where you can have the book on your Kindle and if there are issues, you can contact Amazon’s customer service department and they will promptly take care of the matter. In my case, I bought a children’s book for a buck that had been scanned from the original pages – it even had a copy of the stamp from the public library on one of the pages!
Another way you can help others with the public domain books on Amazon (or any other book or item you purchase on Amazon) is to rate and provide an editorial of the book using the “5 star” rating system. I tend to steer away from books that have a bad rating, and tend to gravitate towards those that have higher ratings. You can participate in that feature, too, by providing an honest rating your purchases but that is an article for another day.
I’m not trying to rant on the free public domain books on Amazon at all – in fact, I think it is a great marketing idea to keep interest up in the Kindle and to get you as a Kindle user more accustomed to reading on your Kindle. While Amazon is doing a pretty good job of removing books that aren’t formatted correctly, sometimes I wish it would happen a little faster!