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Old 11-09-2010, 04:50 AM   #1
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Why are some "free" e-books not so free?

Having previously downloaded How to Analyze People on Sight from Project Gutenberg I was somewhat surprised to discover that amazon.com seems to be charging money for what appears to be the same "free" e-book. I expect this is a naive question, but what am I missing here?
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Old 11-09-2010, 05:08 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by boxcorner View Post
Having previously downloaded How to Analyze People on Sight from Project Gutenberg I was somewhat surprised to discover that amazon.com seems to be charging money for what appears to be the same "free" e-book. I expect this is a naive question, but what am I missing here?
The book is public domain. That means anybody can do [almost] anything with it. Including selling it in e-book format.
Most of the stuff you can find on Gutenberg is also sold to unsuspecting public. In the early days you could find 20 versions of more popular public domain books on Amazon sold by various entities.
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Old 11-09-2010, 05:18 AM   #3
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On the other hand, of course, many public domain texts are available in "scholarly editions" with introductions, essays, footnotes, etc, that are well worth paying for. I have a bookshelf full of "Penguin Classics" editions for that very reason.
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Old 11-09-2010, 05:26 AM   #4
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Understood, thanks. So, as with everything else, caveat emptor
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Old 11-09-2010, 08:21 AM   #5
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On the other hand, of course, many public domain texts are available in "scholarly editions" with introductions, essays, footnotes, etc, that are well worth paying for. I have a bookshelf full of "Penguin Classics" editions for that very reason.
True, I'm partial to the Signet Classics version and translation of War and Peace. I downloaded the freebie. Much to my chargrin the Signet Classic version is no longer available in the US?
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Old 11-09-2010, 08:29 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by boxcorner View Post
Having previously downloaded How to Analyze People on Sight from Project Gutenberg I was somewhat surprised to discover that amazon.com seems to be charging money for what appears to be the same "free" e-book. I expect this is a naive question, but what am I missing here?
This frequently happens with amazon. When I do a search many times the freebies are buried with the search pulling up the paid ones. Try sorting by price low to high. That should unbury the free ones.
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Old 11-09-2010, 09:11 AM   #7
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Another POTENTIAL advantage of purchasing an edition is that, *theoretically* the editing and formatting of the book should be better. Some freebies are pretty iffy in that respect. Of course, so are some for-money books, both electronic and paper.
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Old 11-09-2010, 10:33 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boxcorner View Post
Having previously downloaded How to Analyze People on Sight from Project Gutenberg I was somewhat surprised to discover that amazon.com seems to be charging money for what appears to be the same "free" e-book. I expect this is a naive question, but what am I missing here?
DRM, generally. Your Project Gutenberg ebook is DRM-free. Amazon adds restrictions and charges you more money. So see, you're paying to be prevented from using public domain books in public domain ways -- isn't that a benefit? </snark>

If there's some kind of added material (commentary or whatever) that will be mentioned. Mostly, Amazon just sells you what you can get here on MR, on PG, on Feedbooks, on ManyBooks, etc., for free.

And no, they don't have better editing than MobileRead books (few if any do). Not many can beat Distributed Proofreading, either. Generally, Amazon (and everyone else who will gladly charge you money for free books) just grabs the free ones, strips off the "this book is free" section, slaps on their own cover, and of course DRM, and charges you money.

Last edited by Worldwalker; 11-09-2010 at 10:35 AM.
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Old 11-09-2010, 01:00 PM   #9
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Also, it costs money to host and advertise them.
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Old 11-09-2010, 02:14 PM   #10
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Most of the time I pay for PD books. Notes and introductions are more than worthy for the three bucks I pay for them.
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Old 11-09-2010, 02:33 PM   #11
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DRM, generally. Your Project Gutenberg ebook is DRM-free. Amazon adds restrictions and charges you more money. So see, you're paying to be prevented from using public domain books in public domain ways -- isn't that a benefit? </snark>

If there's some kind of added material (commentary or whatever) that will be mentioned. Mostly, Amazon just sells you what you can get here on MR, on PG, on Feedbooks, on ManyBooks, etc., for free.

And no, they don't have better editing than MobileRead books (few if any do). Not many can beat Distributed Proofreading, either. Generally, Amazon (and everyone else who will gladly charge you money for free books) just grabs the free ones, strips off the "this book is free" section, slaps on their own cover, and of course DRM, and charges you money.
You can sell books without DRM at Amazon. There are independent authors who do so and even a few mainstream authors. The Author or Publisher, whoever is responsible for selling the book, can choose to add the DRM or not.

The books sold at Amazon that are copied from here or Guttenburg are normally individuals who are making a quick dime off of something.
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Old 11-09-2010, 02:51 PM   #12
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The books sold at Amazon that are copied from here or Guttenburg are normally individuals who are making a quick dime off of something.
I've seen a number created by Amazon itself, not just the people who shell out for "How To Make A Fortune With Public Domain Books".

Oh, and don't believe the bit about it costing money to host (next to nothing) or advertise (they don't) the books. I could give an epub of Dracula to every single one of the 96,939 current members of MobileRead without making more than a dent in my available bandwidth. And I do not have Amazon's servers.

Amazon doesn't want people to know they can get free books from places like Project Gutenberg or MobileRead, because they might decide not to buy expensive books from Amazon -- and it's probable that they're selling their reader for, at best, their cost; possibly below cost. They're giving away the razor and selling the blades, and they don't want their users finding cheaper blades somewhere else.
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Old 11-10-2010, 01:14 AM   #13
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The best way to find the free public domain books at Amazon is to type in the title and "public domain" - e.g. type "mansfield park public domain". If you simply search for the title you want, the free version often won't appear.

Amazon stopped allowing people to sell the top one hundred public domain titles some time ago due to customer complaints about the number of versions available. Despite their plans to release a free version of every public domain book, they still like to confuse searches, and have a title such as Robbery Under Arms (an Australian classic) listed for free, though the free version is "not available" to customers from Australia.
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Old 11-10-2010, 09:29 AM   #14
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The best way to find the free public domain books at Amazon is to type in the title and "public domain" - e.g. type "mansfield park public domain". If you simply search for the title you want, the free version often won't appear.
The best way to find free public domain books is to go to a free book website, not to Amazon.

MobileRead is my first choice, followed by ManyBooks, Feedbooks, Project Gutenberg, Munsey's, the Internet Archive, and Google Books (the latter two having formatting that will make you scream, but they sometimes have books the others don't). Project Gutenberg comes in various national flavors, as well. Sure, you have to think ahead and won't get the instant gratification of having your book delivered right away; you'll need to load it from your computer. But in exchange, you aren't just getting a temporary license to read the book from Amazon, who can, and has, taken "their" books right out of people's Kindles. Pick out fifty or a hundred PD books at once and you won't have to worry about what to read for months, solving that whole problem. There are about 2500 books on my 505 and its SD card, and over 2,000 of them are PD. I really should stop buying books (or some indie authors should stop writing them; that might be easier) or I'll never get caught up.
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Old 11-10-2010, 11:47 AM   #15
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I would pay a buck or two for good formatting and proofreading of a public domain book. The problem is, how do you know before buying, if the book has good formatting and has been proofread?
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