This might be old news to some of you, but I just found out today that there are lots of classic pieces of literature–both well known and rare–free to download on Amazon. You don’t need an ereader to read them either: you can view them on your computer using a free app which takes only a minute or two to load (varies based on your computer speed). To find them, just go to Amazon and click on the options list right next to the search bar. Scroll down until you see “Kindle Store” and click on that. From there, just right into the search box whatever classic book your looking for. Much of what was written before 1930 or so you can load to your computer absolutely for free.
How is this legal? Basically, the generic copywright system that was in place a century ago revolved around the concept “death plus seventy,” meaning that, after a writer died, their works would remain their property for seventy years, whereupon they will become public domain. Of course, just because they were free to use and reprint, didn’t mean that people gave away copies for free. To this day, book sellers will try to come up with inventive ways to get people to spend $15 or so on books that cost the publishers nothing, i.e. the recent wave of repackaging Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights in trendy goth covers. In recent years, online retailers have started publishing public domain books in ebook form for free, an act that can seem both benevolent and malevolent. Benevolent because they’re charging the consumer what the book cost them, and malevolent because the act hammered another nail in the book store’s coffin.
Ethics aside, I’d say it’s worthwhile to peruse Amazon and see what classics you might want to read. Here’s some examples of classic books available absolutely for free:
The Portrait of a Lady
Pride and Prejudice
Personally, I highly doubt I could ever sit at a computer long enough to read all of David Copperfield or Clarissa, so today I mostly downloaded shorter books that aren’t easy to find. I’d prefer to use the library than my computer any day of the week, but today I was able to download a lot of books I haven’t heard of or have never been able to find before. For instance, I downloaded a short story by Charles Dickens called Mrs. Lirriper’s Lodgings and another called Doctor Marigold. I also downloaded some I’ve wanted to read for a while, such as Tennyson’s The Idylls of the King and Matthew Arnold’s essay collection Culture and Anarchy. Some I downloaded just on a whim–they’re free after all–such as How Lisa Loved the King by George Eliot and Charles Algernon Swinburne’s A Study of Shakespeare.
You only have to download the Amazon app once (I accidentally did twice). After that, you have to enter your address once as a formality. After that, you can go through and look for books that are free. Since ebooks are basically glorified PDF files, they really don’t take up much room on your computer and are quick to download (a few seconds each).
While you’re using Amazon, please consider purchasing my book of fiction, The Madness of Art: Short Stories which is on sale as an ebook for $2.99 (for a limited time) or in paperback currently for $9.35.