Yes, I tend to get passionate about the concept of Public Domain and the length of time now keeping books from what was originally intended to become shared. The Wikipedia article on Public Domain quotes the value of Public Domain this way:
Pamela Samuelson has identified eight "values" that can arise from information and works in the public domain.
Possible values include:
- Building blocks for the creation of new knowledge, examples include data, facts, ideas, theories, and scientific principle.
- Access to cultural heritage through information resources such as ancient Greek texts and Mozart's symphonies.
- Promoting education, through the spread of information, ideas, and scientific principles.
- Enabling follow-on innovation, through for example expired patents and copyright.
- Enabling low cost access to information without the need to locate the owner or negotiate rights clearance and pay royalties, through for example expired copyrighted works or patents, and non-original data compilation.
- Promoting public health and safety, through information and scientific principles.
- Promoting the democratic process and values, through news, laws, regulation, and judicial opinion.
- Enabling competitive imitation, through for example expired patents and copyright, or publicly disclosed technologies that do not qualify for patent protection.: 22
As a storyteller I particularly value #2, its access to our cultural heritage.
To share access to that Cultural Heritage I'm going to suggest support, whether on next Tuesday's "Giving Tuesday" when many organizations may have special matching funds, or by year's end to Project Gutenberg and the Internet Archive. As I write this, the Internet Archive has one of those matching funds drive.
I enjoy the daily suggestions found on the blog from Free Kindle Books and Tips. It works to the benefit of readers, but also lets authors feature an introduction to their works with a free or low cost option. If you prowl the site a bit, there's an About page where we learn it's the creation of "A gray-haired guy in Texas named Michael Gallagher who doesn’t blog full-time but blogs as a hobby." That blog lets you view beyond Kindles on tablets and desktops and gives good tips. I asked and Michael generously let me reprint here the article he wrote this past Monday. We clearly share a love of Public Domain and Project Gutenberg and he goes beyond just the U.S. versions of both.
Try Project Gutenberg for Free Kindle Books
The first eBook was created 50 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 (https://www.gutenberg.org) – a site that has over 60,000 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
Project Gutenberg of Australia (https://gutenberg.net.au/) provides books which are in the public domain in 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 are not supposed to 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
Project Gutenberg of Canada (https://www.gutenberg.ca/) specializes in Canadiana literature in English and French, in the public domain in Canada.
Project Runeberg (http://runeberg.org/) provides free electronic books from Sweden and Nordic countries.
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 https://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!
Happy reading, for which I give Thanksgiving.
For a more humorous bit of giving thanks, let us salute the human creators before it may all be taken over by Artificial Intelligence. This obituary, supposedly written by a robot, has started to appear all over the internet. (My apologies. This meme is somebody's delightful creation, but I can't learn its real source and can only hope the creator wanted it covered under Creative Commons.)
Speaking from the longtime librarian inside me, I have a dust allergy, but let my need for books (Bibliomania?) permit my being an "avid collector of dust."
May your Thanksgiving give you plenty of opportunity to read.
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