Friday, June 09, 2006


Free books!

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?