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Old 02-22-2019, 03:29 AM   #1
franklekens
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Where did all the free books go?

I'm having some trouble with an epub from project Gutenberg on my Kobo reader. But since I also have a Kindle I thought: I'll just look if this particular Gutenberg book is available as a free Kindle book and download it there (and then convert it).

And this confronts me with a phenomenon that's been nagging me for a while: the quasi disappearance of a lot of free ebooks from Amazon.

The book I was having trouble with is http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/15466

On Goodreads I see that it has been a (probably free) Kindle ebook at one point:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/...bled-marriages
But that's not to be found in my "local" Kindle shop (https://www.amazon.nl), and on .com it's only available as a paperback (!) for 6 dollars:
https://www.amazon.com/Victorian-Sho.../dp/B0084A50U8

There are cheaper ebook versions of the same text, but the one thing they have in common is they all cost money. And I'm not against paying for books, even for books in the public domain, if something valuable has been done to them (such as the often excellent introductions and notes that Penguin and Oxford University Press often have to offer, not to mention a standard of text editing that is generally quite a bit better than that on the Gutenberg site, valuable though that is).

But these commercial editions of what are basically still Gutenberg texts (produced by volunteers and, presumably, some kind of public money or philanthropic funding) -- they often have next to nothing of added value to offer.

(Okay, except the fact that I'm having some problem getting the original no frills Gutenberg epubs to display correctly on my ereaders.)

Anyone else noticed it too, that there's been a dramatic downfall in free ebooks on Amazon? Sure, you'll still find David Copperfield somewhere. But even looking for some of the more out of the way Dickens titles, you'll have to pay to download it from Amazon.

Someone uploads a very nicely formatted "collected works of Kipling" to the terrific Patricia Clark Memorial Library here, and before you know it someone else asks a dollar for it on Amazon.
In fact, I can't find any free Kipling titles on Amazon.

That shiny future of free online literature for everybody that seemed to be dawning say 5 to 10 years ago seems to have gone up in smoke pretty rapidly. At least on the big commercial platforms.

(These forums are good alternative, but they're only for the real afficionados, I suspect. Not the big public.)
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Old 02-22-2019, 03:44 AM   #2
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Only Amazon can offer free public domain ebooks on Amazon. Anyone uploading to Amazon's KDP platform has to set a minimum price, and also has to 'add value' to the book in some way.

This is good, in a way, as it has cut down a bit on the numerous editions that added nothing to the Gutenberg text. But it's still a hard task finding the gems among the dross if one if prepared to pay for a bit extra.

If you want more free public domain titles on Amazon (or Kobo, or iBooks), you'll need to talk to the company running the ebook store.

Otherwise, The MobileRead Library and Project Gutenberg are where to go. And then upload the files to your Kindle account.
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Old 02-22-2019, 04:16 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
Only Amazon can offer free public domain ebooks on Amazon. Anyone uploading to Amazon's KDP platform has to set a minimum price.
This doesn't appear to be true in absolutely every case. Look for example at the nicely produced Wisehouse Classics editions:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?url=sear...ics&price=0-00
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Old 02-22-2019, 04:28 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by lxpose View Post
This doesn't appear to be true in absolutely every case. Look for example at the nicely produced Wisehouse Classics editions:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-title=wisehouse&classics&price=0-00
How interesting. I wonder how they're managing that.
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Old 02-22-2019, 06:23 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by pdurrant View Post
How interesting. I wonder how they're managing that.
Perhaps because the same publisher also sells pbook versions?
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Old 02-22-2019, 07:23 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by franklekens View Post
on .com it's only available as a paperback (!) for 6 dollars:
https://www.amazon.com/Victorian-Sho.../dp/B0084A50U8
I can still buy the ebook from Amazon for free. Amazon can be inconsistent in whether or not it displays ebooks on browsers in a country different from the storefront, and whether the price is the one at the storefront, or a translated one in the browser currency. It makes it hard to check availability with confidence.

Try opening a private window and checking again, when you're not logged into your account.

That said, Amazon frequently pulls its freebie public domain books because of formatting issues and you can wait a long time, or forever apparently, until it's restored. Here's one I've been trying to buy for years:

He Knew He Was Right.
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Old 02-22-2019, 09:21 AM   #7
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Quote:

And this confronts me with a phenomenon that's been nagging me for a while: the quasi disappearance of a lot of free ebooks from Amazon.
When it comes to modern commercial ebooks the decline of permafree is by design. Amazon discourages permafree so authors have to backdoor by going wide and price matching do to permafree. Which means no Kindle Unlimited.

KDP select allows free books but only on sales, five days a month.

Authors have generally opted to go $0.99 and KU on their loss leader series books that would've been premafree in earlier times.
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Old 02-22-2019, 09:24 AM   #8
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By the way: there are sources other than Gutenberg for PD ebooks.

The library here, of course.
And Feedbooks has a decent assortment.
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Old 02-22-2019, 10:07 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by franklekens View Post
That shiny future of free online literature for everybody that seemed to be dawning say 5 to 10 years ago seems to have gone up in smoke pretty rapidly. At least on the big commercial platforms.
That shiny future of free literature is already here. Amazon is under no obligation to take part in it. (In the US, at least) It is possible to buy a Kindle or Kobo (or any phone or tablet, really) and have immediate, on demand access to your public library where you can read non-PD bestsellers for free.

Gutenberg and Standardebooks (my two sources for free, classic literature) offer Kindle compatible formats. Standardebooks offers ePub, AZW3 and kepub.

If free stuff were easy to find, Matthew Lesko wouldn't have a career.

Last edited by ZodWallop; 02-22-2019 at 10:42 AM.
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Old 02-22-2019, 12:04 PM   #10
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What everyone else said, but also I think there was a focus on free books more back when the ebook infrastructure was still being established. Amazon would of course like to grow the ebook market and its own share of it but they're not trying to get a mass of people to adopt it for the first time in the way they were in 2009. Similarly for Kobo, who you'll recall used to preload some free classics on their devices (I just missed that when I bought my first Kobo).
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Old 02-22-2019, 03:41 PM   #11
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By the way: there are sources other than Gutenberg for PD ebooks.

The library here, of course.
And Feedbooks has a decent assortment.
This is the most comprehensive index of free books online that I'm aware of. They list books hosted at Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, university collections, libraries, etc.

http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/

A couple collections in life+50 countries that also include some books that are PD everywhere:

https://www.fadedpage.com/index.php
http://freeread.com.au/
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Old 02-22-2019, 04:35 PM   #12
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This. Also...

https://archive.org/

...has a mind-blowing array of free ebooks in their 'texts' subsection. One could probably spend many lifetimes reading there.

One other point: don't be bound to your region for buying ebooks from Big River. Get the right VPN (NordVPN is one that I know works for sure--a 'friend' told me :-)), connect to Big River US, buy and download what you need. This is the moral equivalent of DeDRM'ing an ebook that you paid for. They may not like it and try to block, but they're also benefiting from your business regardless, and I've never heard a case of them bugging an individual user about doing this. When I'm out of country, I use same approach to access my streaming media accounts--which I paid for in good ole US dollars, so I don't feel bad about accessing my account just because I'm somewhere else.

Last edited by maximus83; 02-22-2019 at 04:41 PM.
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Old 02-23-2019, 01:11 AM   #13
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This. Also...

https://archive.org/

...has a mind-blowing array of free ebooks in their 'texts' subsection. One could probably spend many lifetimes reading there.
Many of the ebooks on archive.org are pirated copies. Although they make it look a bit like a public library system where you borrow the books for a limited time and might have to join a waitlist for the book, unlike a real public library the author/publisher generally haven't given their permission for their books to be listed there and don't get paid when you borrow them.

I think it is just a pirate site dressed up as a library.
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Old 02-23-2019, 02:00 AM   #14
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Many of the ebooks on archive.org are pirated copies.
How many? Have some kind of evidence that this is a systemic issue?

Archive.org is a reputable site and one of the best things going on the Internet for the common good. It wouldn't surprise if in their vast repo, some pirated stuff slips through the cracks along with the reams of legitimate content. But I don't see the logic of questioning the integrity of the whole enterprise based on some bad content slipping into their vast site.
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Old 02-23-2019, 02:21 AM   #15
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How many? Have some kind of evidence that this is a systemic issue?
I don't know how many, far too many for me to count.

In this 2013 Teleread article a figure was given of 250,000 ebooks in archive.org's modern ebooks collection with only about 100 that had the publisher's permission to be there. So that is 99.96% without permission. The numbers have grown a lot since then.

The Internet Archive’s Open Library is violating authors’ copyrights
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