Two years ago I wrote about the debut of the World eBook Fair (www.worldebookfair.org; http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=18231). The collaborative project promised to bring free ebooks to the public from July 4 through Aug. 4 each year from 2006 to 2009. Sponsored by the oldest and largest free ebook source on the internet, Project Gutenberg—with the assistance of the World eBook Library and a number of other ebook efforts—the month-long celebration offered one-third of a million ebooks to the public for free downloading. In 2007 it offered twice that number. This year, the theme of the fair is Own Your Own Library and it promises 1 million-plus books free for the taking.
As of midnight CDT July 4, 2008, these were the approximate numbers:
100,000-plus from Project Gutenberg
500,000-plus from the World Public Library
450,000-plus from the Internet Archive
160,000-plus from eBooks About Everything
17,000-plus from International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP—sheet music)
Michael Hart, founder and prime mover of Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org), says that the Internet Archive (www.archive.org) will add about 1,000 books on each business day, along with various additions by the other contributors during World eBook Fair. Thus the final grand total should be even higher.
The choice of the July 4 start date is fitting. It marks the anniversary in 1971 of the first step taken by Project Gutenberg toward today’s ebooks. The U.S. Declaration of Independence was the first file placed online for downloading.
The sheer number and the range and variety of titles make the World eBook Fair a veritable treasure trove for book lovers—and an even better deal for those with no extra money for ebooks after buying gas for their cars. Now is the time to stock your own digital library with reading for the year.
One blogger commented that the fair "gets more resources out to more people across the world and that’s good." Another said: "World eBook Fair Site—one word = WOW!! Fancy being able to revisit all my childhood favourites such as AA Milne, LM Montgomery, and Johanna Spyri plus many authors that I am enjoying now."
All possible types of ebooks are offered—Adobe PDF format, plain text format, ebooks for cell phones, and MP3 files. There are 130 collections created by contributions from 100-plus elibraries from around the world. Here’s just a sample of what is offered at the World eBook Fair during this month of free access:
- The Technical Manuals and eBooks Collection of technical references are many of the most commonly requested references on the internet (4,458 PDF ebooks).
- The World Public Library Children’s eBook Collection is a selected list of the most popular children’s books, "My First Book Collection" (84 PDF ebooks).
- The World Public Library’s Classic Literature Collection shelves more than 10,000 works of literature, in many languages.
- The World Public Library Department of Education Library: Online Educational Resource Collection contains reports, worksheets, studies, articles, ebooks, and a variety of other publications that support and strengthen the learning experience (6,268 PDF ebooks).
- U.S. government agency collections, including Department of Commerce, Department of Energy, Central Intelligence Agency, Environmental Protection Agency, and more.
- Non-English languages collections, including Japanese, Islamic, Chinese, French, Dutch, Hungarian, and more.
- The Sound of Literary Works, by LiteralSystems, provides Classic Literature and Poetry recited, performed, and made into downloadable MP3 audio files.
- MobileBooks are ebooks for mobile phones.
The World Public Library (http://worldpubliclibrary.org), one of the key sponsors, normally charges a modest annual membership fee of $8.95, but during this month, it is providing access to its collections free. One blogger commented that this was a nice way to see what is available without committing to a membership.
The Internet Archive had been partnering with Microsoft and others in the Open Content Alliance (OCA) to digitize out-of-copyright texts and offer them free. Microsoft recently withdrew its support from the project and shut down its Live Search Books and Live Search Academic projects. Brewster Kahle, head of the Internet Archive and leader of the OCA says they are looking for alternatives. (For details see the NewsBreak at http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=49423.)
There are other good sources for free ebooks and digital texts, including those digitized and findable through Google Book Search (http://books.google.com). Here are a few links to some finding tools:
And don’t forget that your libraries may provide free use of ebooks and audiobooks through providers like NetLibrary, ebrary, Audible, and others.
Congratulations to Hart and Project Gutenberg on the 37th anniversary of helping worthy texts find a digital outlet. And many thanks to Project Gutenberg and the other sponsors of the World eBook Fair for their efforts and generous provision of texts.