Sunday, 2 December 2012


I've written before about the importance of the public domain, the massive assemblage of all works for which ownership has expired. It includes the works of Shakespeare, of course, and the musical scores of Bach and Brahms and, in Canada, music recordings from fifty years ago and before. Governments sometimes carve out odd exceptions to the rules that govern the public domain. So, in Britain, Peter Pan is still the property of Great Ormond Street Hospital, and the King James translation of the Bible is controlled by the Crown even now, 401 years after its first publication.

I've also mentioned a number of good web sites to find public domain books in e-book formats. These are Project Gutenberg and its spinoffs, such as the Australian and Canadian projects, and the Internet Archive.

However, the point of this post is to recommend a site called Feedbooks. It is a purveyor of commercial e-books, but the main page gives equal prominence to public domain and self-published books. There are many fewer books under the public domain heading than at Project Gutenberg (about a tenth as many), but the books are more attractive. They come with cover pictures, which are often the covers of the first print edition of the book; they lack the long legal text at the beginning of a Project Gutenberg book, and in its place is a biography of the author. Finally, the chapter headings are differentiated from the text in a more professional-looking way. See for yourself: the Gutenberg e-book is on the left, the Feedbooks, on the right.

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