Amazon Kindle editions of many public domain books are actually repackaged versions of the same books from Project Guttenberg. This is according to many contributors to the free online library of public domain books, writes Rob Pegoraro of The Washington Post.
Project Guttenberg is a user built library of free public domain books which are edited and uploaded by users. The books are mostly text files which can be downloaded and freely used, even by a company wishing to make a profit on the content. Being in the public domain means they do not have a copyright holder and are free to use as people wish.
The Post cites Linda M. Everhart, who complained that her contribution – Arthur Robert Harding’s book Fox Trapping written in 1906 and now public domain was repackaged by Amazon and sold for $4. These are not just versions of the books but the exact files, according to the article.
Other works are also found in the Amazon store. They include the following:
- Eldred Nathanial Woodcock’s Fifty Years a Hunter and Trapper ($.99 on Amazon)
- John R. Lockard’s Bee Hunting ($3.69 on Amazon)
- Martin Hunter’s Canadian Wilds ($3.16 on Amazon)
While it is not a violation of the public domain library’s terms of service, Chief Executive Greg Newby of Project Gutenberg said it is unethical. However, he also added that Amazon is not the only culprit, just the “worst offender.”
From Amazon’s perspective, they are not necessarily actively pursuing this course of action. A PR person claims that the books were sent to Amazon by another person under their reselling program, which allows users to upload books and have Amazon sell them on their behalf for a cut of the proceeds.
As a compromise Guttenberg’s Newby suggested that Amazon offer the Guttenberg books as free, digital rights management free editions, which is the whole purpose behind Project Guttenberg’s site. Apple does that for books it offers in their library available for iBooks. Newby said Amazon has not responded to the offer. Could it be that they are enjoying the percentage they take from every book offered through this third-party program?
If you wish to get books from Project Guttenberg directly, it is quite easy. If you use an iOS device or an Android device, there is an app for that. Project Guttenberg files are available as part of the Stanza library and reader. Or users can upload using the instructions for adding them to iBooks found at Apple.