Free books!

by DaniGirl on June 9, 2006 · 7 comments

in Uncategorized

Have you heard about Project Gutenberg? They’re one of the oldest purveyors of free online books on the Internet, and to celebrate their anniversary this year, they’ve teamed with the World eBook Library Consortia to create the World eBook Fair. Starting in July, they’ll be providing free (FREE!) access to over 300,000 e-books.

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, “The Gutenberg books, typed and scanned into computers by thousands of volunteers, mostly are those that are no longer protected by copyright. They include fiction, nonfiction and reference books and will be available for worldwide readers in about 100 languages.” You can also download audio e-books read by a human or computer, and (for some reason I love this the best) digitized sheet music.

The Gutenberg site lists the top 100 downloaded books and authors in the last day, last week and last month. Here are the most downloaded books this month (parentheses are the actual number of downloads):

1. The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci — Complete by Leonardo da Vinci (16365)
2. Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great – Volume 01 by Elbert Hubbard (9540)
3. Hand Shadows to Be Thrown upon the Wall by Henry Bursill (8950)
4. Kamasutra by Vatsyayana (8649)
5. Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases by Grenville Kleiser (8637)
6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (7589)
7. Great Britain and Her Queen by Annie E. Keeling (7463)
8. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (7457)
9. How to Speak and Write Correctly by Joseph Devlin (6534)
10. The Art of War by 6th cent. B.C. Sunzi (6163)

While I think the whole project is most excellent in theory, I’m not sure about the whole “e-book” thing. I’m a very tactile person. I judge a book not just by its cover but also by its font, by its paperweight, and its heft. And the idea of reading through a palm pilot or a crackberry or on the computer monitor doesn’t have much appeal to me. I may, in fact, be the most tech savvy of the Luddite clan.

What do you think? Have you tried e-books? Would you pay for a subscrition or for access to e-books, or like me, are you suspicious of even the free kind? Could lying on the beach with an e-book ever rival doing it with a tattered paperback? And if we all move to e-books eventually, where will I stash all my Canadian Tire money – my summertime bookmark of choice?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marla June 9, 2006 at 2:28 pm

There’s another awewome resource for online books: The Rosetta Project
An online library of illustrated antique childrens books, many translated into other languages — all as a volunteer-driven project.
It’s a beauty thing.

2 Kirsten Neumann Stephens June 9, 2006 at 3:11 pm

I’m with you. Reading is a passion and I can’t imagine doing it tied to a computer. I suppose if I cuddled up with my laptop in bed on a winter’s night with it breathing its hot fan air on me to keep me cozy, I might warm up to the idea. In July, no way. I want to fall into a story the way that I fall into a muskoka chair on the dock at the cottage.
On the other hand, out of curiousity, I might check out some of the books that I wouldn’t buy or borrow from the library.
Verdict is still out on this one.

3 suze June 9, 2006 at 3:32 pm

i’m not a fan of the e-book. I’m all about the tactile pleasure of reading. And i totally judge books by their covers – I have been known to buy books based on the cover alone…
so while I think it’s awesome that project gutenberg is making literature more accessable, I’d still spend the money on a book rather than an ebook anyday.

4 Batman June 9, 2006 at 4:20 pm

This is really cool.

5 Jeff June 11, 2006 at 5:04 am

When I first discovered gutenburg, I read alot of short stories from there. My favorites were those written by Saki

6 Suzanne June 11, 2006 at 2:41 pm

I am a real-book kind of gal. I don’t mind reading short pieces in electronic form, but I can’t imagine deriving any pleasure from staring at an internally lit computer screen for long stretches.

7 victor June 18, 2006 at 4:30 am

I have been promoting ebooks for a number of years (, and I will confess that an ebook can never beat having a good hardcover book in your hands. But when we started our digital project, our intention was to never compete with hardocover books….but to supplement them. People download our ebooks because of the convenience that it offers…..i.e. it is there instantly, and it is free (at least we offer all of our ebooks for free ).
At for Gutenberg’s Book Fair, there is no need to wait till July. On our website, we already have a good collection of digital libraries with books available for downloading. Just go to Bookyards “Library Collections – E Books” at
There are approximately 350 digital libraries separated alphabetically and by category, with over 200,000 ebooks

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