The lowdown on digital classics

If you own an eReader or have browsed a website that sells eBooks with any regularity, you’ve seen the offers for free eBooks. Every major book retailer out there understands the allure of offering freebies, but it’s not often that they have the option of offering them without taking some loss themselves. So how do they offer free eBooks and what eBooks can you find for free online that aren’t part of a promotion to draw you in? Exploring the free digital copy market might seem less than savory, but as you’ll find it’s all legitimate, and a great way to add some classics to your collection.

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What books can I get for free?

You’ve probably seen the advertisements, click ads or even the sections on your favorite digital bookstore shouting about free book. These aren’t promotions and every time you check, you probably see titles you recognize, so what books can you get for free?

Barnesandnoble.com offers over 60,000 pages of results for the search term “free eBooks” and has offerings under nearly every genre they offer for sale including romance, science fiction, business, education and history. The Nook free eBook downloads makes it easy to fill out your library or let you get a taste of genres you might not be very familiar with. Free eBook downloads also offer sources for research or study material without the sometimes high price-tag that print books can carry with them, or the limited availability of their library counterparts.

The Classics

The definition of what makes a book a ‘classic’ is as fluid as the number of responses you will get when you ask bibliophiles what the term classic means to them in terms of books. Perhaps every definition is right, because whatever keeps people coming back to a book time and again, year after year and sometimes hundreds of years after publication, they continue to have an impact in people.

Many classics are available through free eBook downloads and a variety of sources online. Just to give you a taste, here are a few of the greats that you’ll find free of any price tags:

  • The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, published 1306
  • The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, published 1886
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, published 1896
  • The Shadow over Innsmouth by H.P Lovecraft, published 1936
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell, published 1948

You probably recognize one or more of the titles above. That’s something else about the Classics that make them so popular. They are recognizable to a large portion of the populous even if those people haven’t necessarily read them. Books that make the Classics list have a timelessness that makes them relevant no matter when they’re read.

Why are they free?

So you might be wondering why these sorts of books are free. Surely books like Island of Dr. Moreau, that had a movie made after it with popular actors, should be worth something to the public. So why is it being offered free, everywhere, if they still have the ability to make money and entertain the masses today?

Copyright is the usual culprit for why these familiar books can and are offered for free. Copyright law has specific limitations built into it, include time limits for its applicability to a work. After the copyright on a piece ends, it becomes part of the Public Domain, which means that the public owns the work in its entirety and it can now be used without royalties being paid or legal problems arising. These pieces can be sold and bought by anyone that’s willing to put them into a format that people are willing to purchase.

How can someone make them free if they have to be moved to a digital format? Part of the reason is that there are people with the resources to release books electronically that think the classics should be available to everyone regardless of ability to purchase them and other retailers follow suit. It’s good business sense to offer some books for free that don’t cost anything or at least not much to deliver and charge for others because people who can get something for free will often come back for more in the future.

Free is Good

No matter how you look at it, being able to get good books that have a long history of popularity, without paying anything at all, is a good deal. Filling your library with books that speak through the ages gives you something to read that may make an impact and it also gives you something to talk about. The ability to get books that are free of copyright restrictions and carry them with you anywhere is just one more reason why eReaders have an edge as the digital revolution continues.

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