Flash! Press release from the British Library

We heard a little while back about a deal that the British Library had made to make works available for the Kindle.

The British Library has now put out a press release talking more about the deal.

I’m really excited about this!  I read a lot of 19th Century literature, and that’s what’s involved here.  This release will make many books available that people currently can’t get easily.

I love that it includes “penny dreadfuls”, which certainly weren’t considered great literature in their day.  A lot of things I like are treated as ephemera, and virtually no one is making an effort to preserve them.  I have materials like that in my private library…I won’t say nobody else has them, certainly, and not very many people would want them.  :)   I’m hoping to digitize them myself, at some point.

The works include A Strange Story by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  Lytton (as the library cites his name) was very popular, and we still see his influence today.  He gave us the phrases “the pen is mightier than the sword” and the “almighty dollar”.  His fictional ideas reportedly influenced the Nazis, and supposedly, Snoopy in Charlie Brown took the line “It was a dark and stormy night” from B-L. 

Some of his books have been pretty easy to find (you can get The Coming Race for free from the Kindle store…and in EPUB or PDF (or mobi) at FeedBooks here).

That’s just a taste of the 65,000 works this will make available.  For people who don’t have Kindles (for which all of these will be free), you can get them in cheap paper editions.

This is all very interesting and may be a direct response to the Google Books settlement.  There is no question that this is legal…it’s all works in the public domain.  Some of the language in the press release is reminiscent of comments Google has made about how their project brings books to the world. 

It does make one wonder why the books aren’t also being released in other  formats that would be accessible on more devices or free online.  I assume ther is some remuneration involved.   What do you think about that?  Are you okay with only people with a certain brand of EBR (E-Book Reader) being able to get the e-book version of these works?  Feel free to let me know…

UPDATE: One of my readers, Bonnie, pointed out that the works would be available on the free apps, which means people could read them on PCs, iPhones, iPod touches, Blackberrys…soon, Macs, and from what we’ve heard, the Apple iPad.  I don’t know that they would be free outside the US that way, but it is an excellent point.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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5 Responses to “Flash! Press release from the British Library”

  1. Bonnie Says:

    Thanks for this update and for your interesting and informative blog.

    I’m an academic librarian. On the one hand, I think digitizing these works and making them available is great. I am not crazy about the fact that they’re in a propritetary format. As a Kindle owner and reader of 19th century literature, I’m very excited.

    I was thinking… isn’t Kindle for PC (or Blackberry or iphone) free? So in theory, couldn’t anyone download that and then have access to these books without a Kindle? I don’t know if that’s how it works, but it seems that anyone COULD access these books for free without a Kindle if they’re willing to download the free software.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Bonnie! It’s so much better than when I hear from those unacademic librarians. Just kidding… ;)

      Yes, in the US, you are right…and it’s a good point. They should be available for free for the apps. My understanding is that the free books may not be available in other countries with those apps.

      I’m going to update the post with that point…thanks!

  2. Michelle Says:

    I find very unfair books being accessible only to this or that e-reader. I would like to buy e-books on all possible sites and read them on every possible reader.
    I would feel more secure for my e-books if they were not tied to a format.
    I hope it will be like that in the future, because all those restrictions are ridiculous.
    Thanks for your blog, Buffo, and your comments on Amazon forums which are very useful.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Michelle!

      I do understand that position. As another reader, Bonnie, pointed out, they should be available through the free Kindle for PC app as well. I should have said that myself, but I’m not much of a morning person. ;) Anyway, at least in the US, that should make them free to anybody with a PC, and when they put out the Mac app, anybody with a Mac as well. They may be free outside the US as well in that case…not sure yet.

  3. the ArtWench Says:

    How exciting! Okay, briefly, I would like to agree with the above comments which disapprove of the format restrictions; however, I just can’t withhold my glee at the future release of the British Museums’ 65,000 works! They have a phenomenal collection and I’m looking forward to browsing their releases, even the “penny dreadfuls”! Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

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