Thursday, February 25, 2010

British Library's 65,000 free books for Kindle: Update3

This is an update to (1) the detailed original report, the (2) follow-up story on reactions and questions about the file format used and (3) a look at what the Penny Dreadfuls collection is.

Information Today's Barbara Quint reports on The British Library's press release of February 23.

Much has been written about the final product looking exactly like the copies of the original editions, but in my mind it hasn't been totally clear from the Library whether that pertains to the Kindle edition or to just the print-on-demand copies that one can buy.  In an earlier update I wondered about the file-format and how they would retain the look of the originals without their being images rather than text.  I still haven't found anything solid on that, though I did quote NextWeb as writing that "...users of their Kindle eReader" would be able to "access historically accurate digital representations" but that could mean the printed copies available on-demand (and for $) to Amazon Kindle users.  Let us know if you hear anything definitive on that.

 Will the subsidiary of Amazon that provides printed copies be printing from Kindle copies or the copies that Microsoft originally scanned?  Could be the latter.  The Kindle copies are being made secondarily.  I guess we'll know fairly soon as they're due out in the Spring and the Library's press release is otherwise full of info. The provider of printed copies will be (originally CustomFlix Labs and BookSurge, Inc. and now a DBA for On-Demand Publishing LLC).  BL will receive some revenue from the Print-On-Demand sales, which will help it fund more digitization.

Quint writes:
'  How would you like to read a copy of a book by Charles Dickens or Jane Austen that looks exactly like the copies those authors held in their hands, ink fresh from the printers?  How would you like to read some of the books that the first readers of those books probably wouldn't admit they read-the so-called "penny dreadfuls"?  Last year, Microsoft completed its digitization obligations to The British Library (BL; and handed over 25 million pages in 65,000 19th-century books.  As yet the digital copies, like the hard copies, have only been readable by visitors to The British Library Reading Room.

  Later this spring, however, the digital copies will be available to any and all users of the Amazon Kindle ebook reader for free. A print-on-demand service will provide optional paperback copies to readers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France. Expect to see the digital collection appear elsewhere as well. The Amazon arrangement is nonexclusive. '
As was said in the first newspaper report, "To meet the ever increasing demands of our users the library is negotiating with other key industry players to ensure we maximise potential for access."
  The Kindle is just the first e-reader for which an agreement was reached.

Today's article by Quint explains how it happened that Microsoft arranged to digitize the books, begun in 2005-2006.  After they halted their "Live Search Books" project, which was begun to compete with the new Google Books project at the time, they finished the scanning of the books and, per BL, completed the agreement but "gave us the content to do with what we wish and waived all their rights."
  Jacob Lant, The British Library's press officer, pointed out that BL "...provided the space and expertise in preservation and collection management, while the third-party scanning was paid by Microsoft."

As we know, about 35-40% of the items are unique to the Library or inaccessible in major libraries elsewhere.   The 65,000 Kindle books will cover, Quint writes, philosophy, history, poetry, and literature.

You can go to the Library press release and the Information Today article (links above) to read much more about this, including details of the offerings

Dame Lynne Brindley, chief executive of The British Library, again referred to the deal with Amazon as a "landmark agreement" in many ways.  The Library is talking to other potential partners, and they expect to supply more content to Kindle and Amazon.

  Interestingly, Lant mentions that Google had approached them in the past but the Library didn't agree to the terms.  "In the future, we might talk to them, but all deals must be on our terms as rightsholders." Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
-- The Send to Kindle button works well only on Firefox currently.

Send to Kindle

(Older posts have older Kindle model info. For latest models, see CURRENT KINDLES page. )
If interested, you can also follow my add'l blog-related news at Facebook and Twitter
Questions & feedback are welcome in the Comment areas (tho' spam is deleted). Thanks!


  1. [Interestingly, Lant mentions that Google had approached them in the past but the Library didn't agree to the terms. "In the future, we might talk to them, but all deals must be on our terms as rightsholders."]

    This is a strange interpretation of copyright law! Since when did owning a physical copy of a public domain book convey any special ownership rights to the text?

  2. Anonymous,
    I don't know, but they're in the UK and if they have the only copy of something I suppose 'rights' are affected by that.


NOTE: TO AVOID SPAM being posted instantly, this blog uses the "DELAY" feature.

Am often away much of the day, and postings won't show up right away. Posts done to use referrer-links may never show up.

Usually, am online enough to release comments within a day though, so the hard-to-read match-text tests for commenting won't be needed this way.

Feedback and questions are welcome. Thanks for participating.

Technical Problems?
If you're having problems leaving a Comment, Google's blogger-help asks that you clear the '' cookies on your browser's Tools or Options menu bar and that will fix the Comment-box problems (until they have a permanent fix).

IF that doesn't work either, then UNcheck the "keep me signed in" box -- Google-help says that should allow your comment to post (it's a workaround to a current bug).
Apologies for the problems.

TIP: There's a size limit. If longer than 3500 characters or so, in a text editor, make two posts out of it.

[Valid RSS]