Saturday, June 23, 2007

Free Books Are Fun

I've been a big fan of out-of-copyright free books. My favorite is Munsey's (previously Black Mask) because it offers a variety of formats and the one I prefer--formatted for Microsoft Reader. The Baen Free Library is a great place to discover a new science fiction author (or rediscover one of your favorites) because this publisher of science fiction also offers standard reader formats. Two other very famous sites (though I do not use them as often because the formats are variable with plain text and HTML being the most common) are Project Gutenberg and the University of Virginia Digital Library.

Most people think I'm insane to read books digitally. I agree that I couldn't sit in front of the computer for hours reading books--I save that for web sites. My ability to take advantage of these great resources is due to my continuing PDA addiction. My current PDA is a Dell Axim X51v PDA. I can view the text in Microsoft Reader very easily. I read sitting in a chair, lying in bed, I can take it everywhere I take a regular book--though I won't be reading electronically while floating in the pool!

For those who hate to read electronically or are smarter than laying out $200 to $400 for a reader, there's Espresso Books On Demand (from a post at Make Magazine).

The Espresso Book Machine will be available to the public at SIBL through August, and will operate Monday- Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library is located at 188 Madison Avenue (at 34th Street).

Library users will have the opportunity to print free copies of such public domain classics as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and “Songs of Innocence” by William Blake, as well as appropriately themed in-copyright titles as Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” and Jason Epstein’s own “Book Business.” The public domain titles were provided by the Open Content Alliance (“OCA”), a non-profit organization with a database of over 200,000 titles.
The EBM, now available for sale to libraries and retailers, can potentially allow readers anywhere to obtain within minutes, almost any book title in any language, whether or not the book is in print. The EBM’s proprietary software transmits a digital file to the book machine, which automatically prints, binds, and trims the reader’s selection within minutes as a single, library-quality, paperback book, indistinguishable from the factory-made title.

Lovers of classics and especially free classics, rejoice, and head into the city for a free book.

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