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).