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British Library offer 65,000 ebooks for free

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February 14, 2010

The British Library is to offer for free more than 65,000 19th century classics to Kindle ...

The British Library is to offer for free more than 65,000 19th century classics to Kindle owners

The British Library has announced that users of Amazon's Kindle e-reader will be able to download more than 65,000 19th century classics for free this coming spring in a special format that will have the look of a genuine first edition. Works from famous authors like Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and Jane Austen will be reproduced using the original typeface and illustrations to add an antique feel to the e-reader technology.

According to Dame Lynne Brindley, Chief Executive of the British Library: "Making 19th century fiction available for free through the Kindle e-book reader opens up a new global readership for forgotten literary gems. Kindle users will be able to download, free of charge, 25 million pages of digitized books, from noteworthy editions of well known authors like Dickens, Conan Doyle and Thomas Hardy to rare early 19th century fiction and even the UK’s best collection of ‘penny dreadfulls’."

The British Library has worked with Microsoft over the past three years to digitally record text and images from the out-of-copyright works. Microsoft also helped develop the "Turning the Pages" software that allows users to interact with otherwise off-limits, rare books and manuscripts from the likes of Handel, Leonardo da Vinci, Lewis Carroll and Mozart. As well as seeing a visual representation of a turning page, users can zoom right up close to a page, change orientation and much more.

The news represents the latest step of an ongoing digitization project which recently made available more than two million pages from 19th century British newspapers and aims to capture 50 million items by 2020. Work will now begin on the scanning of out-of-copyright books from the early 20th century.

Printed copies sporting the same 19th century "first edition" look and feel of the original classics will also be available from Amazon's store. Prices start at £15 (US$23), which represents quite a saving on originals by Dickens and Austen which can cost at least £250 (US$392).

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5 Comments

I thuoght the Kindle was only black and off white. Is there a new version, and will the I pad (or is it an Eye pad?) be stiff competition?

windykites1
15th February, 2010 @ 10:15 am PST

Remember, there's also the free "Kindle for PC" software if you want to read these books without buying the actual Kindle.

Works fine on a netbook or laptop, too.

Cheers,

Doc

matthew.rings
15th February, 2010 @ 02:57 pm PST

How nice for Kindle owners. It's too bad owners of any other kind of ebook reader are shut out of the British Library.

Rob Roberts
15th February, 2010 @ 03:17 pm PST

Article UPDATE: I have just received confirmation from the British Library that "the deal we have with Amazon is non-exclusive. We are in constant discussion with public and private organisations in order to increase/improve access to our collections." So owners of other e-reader brands may well get access to these classics in the near future.

windykites1 - the Kindle is indeed currently grayscale only, the image showing the classic Dickens novel is just for display purposes.

A few examples of the kind of books by other authors that are on offer are as follows:

A Strange Story, by Edward Lytton (1862)

An epic work of fantasy and romance, this supernatural story is filled

with the captivating gothic style of one of the most popular of all

Victorian novelists, now largely neglected.

The Story of a Modern Woman, by Ella Hepworth Dixon (1894)

Packed with moving scenes and vibrant characters, this work is fine

example of the 'New Woman' genre of late Victorian England and has been

described by John Sutherland as 'the greatest unread novel of female

struggle'.

Black Bess, by Edward Viles (1866-8)

One of the best known Penny Dreadfuls, this series ran to over 254

editions and a total of 2028 pages, romanticising the tales of the

infamous highwayman Dick Turpin. With so many instalments this was one

of the longest running Penny Dreadfuls.

The Blue Dwarf, by Lady Esther Hope, pseudo. (1860)

A rival series to Edward Viles' 'Black Bess', this series depicts Turpin

as the faithful tool of the Blue Dwarf, a deformed heir to ancient

estates who had been denied his inheritance, and their escapades with

Scottish clansmen, Irish banditti and even Red Indians.

PolRid
15th February, 2010 @ 11:34 pm PST

Is the British Library paid for by the taxes of the British people? If so, then why is a an organization paid for by the public discriminating against every other book reader in the world? Why are they forcing a specific privately owned product upon the public? Are they getting a kick-back? Is the British Library getting an "Amazon" dedicated wing? I don't think that this is right. Unless the book is readable in every ebook, it should not be readable in any!

Ed
16th February, 2010 @ 02:50 pm PST
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