Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Amazon announces Free Book Collections page

At the Amazon Community Discussions area, there is an official Announcement tonight from the Amazon Kindle Customer Service account about the new Free Book Collections page:
' With over 420,000 titles, the Kindle Store contains the largest selection of the books people want to read including New York Times® Best Sellers and most new releases at $9.99, unless otherwise marked.  And Amazon provides thousands of the most popular classic books for free including titles like The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, and Treasure Island with more coming.

But of course, the Internet is huge and there are lots of older, pre-1923 books online.  We wanted to make it easier to find these collections which today represent nearly 2 million titles [emphases mine].

Visit amazon.com/freebookcollections for sites with free book collections and download instructions. '
  This has an advantage for Amazon as now they can say that the Kindle can access all those books, which is, of course true, which the Amazon Community Forums have discussed for a long time and which you've seen on blogger sites such as this one's regular reminders and links.

  But this makes the free books available to the Amazon Kindle a bit easier for most people to find, and Amazon has been working on improving the formatting of free books that had been uploaded to Amazon in the past.

  The set of almost 20,000 or so free Kindle classics at Amazon now has its own page.

  At the new Free Book Collections page  (free classics and out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books available for Kindle), Amazon tells us:
' But of course, the Internet is huge and there are lots of older, out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books online.  We wanted to make it easier to find these collections, which today represent nearly 2 million titles. See the sites and instructions below to download free classic and other out-of-copyright, pre-1923 books and transfer via USB to your Kindle device or read on Kindle for PC.

Note that these large collections of older free books are typically created from scanned copies of physical books and can have variable quality. '
  In fact, the 30,000 Project Gutenberg books are very well formatted and Amazon now links us to that website, but with that particular link they encourage you to browse the site on your computer (rather than the catalog on your Kindle) and you then need to download the books to your computer and transfer them to your Kindle -- instead of directly downloading a book to your Kindle via the catalog on the Kindle (see next paragraph).

  There are ways (one of them promoted on this site) to get the catalog of Project Gutenberg onto your Kindle and browse or search it on your Kindle and when you want to download a Kindle-compatible e-book ('Mobi' format), you just click to get it, direct onto your Kindle.  The problem for Amazon is that Whispernet is used for such a download but it's direct from the Project Gutenberg area and is not chargeable as it doesn't come from Amazon servers.

  So, give that a thought.  Amazon wants to keep use of the webbrowser free (as it is now a defining, unique feature of this e-reader), and I imagine too much use of it could threaten Amazon's ability to keep that feature free.  Downloading time is extremely brief though, for a text-based book, and can't compare with time and bandwidth spent actually browsing the web, something they still encourage with their built-in web bookmarks on new Kindles.

The new Amazon page also makes it easy for people to know about and find The Internet Archives, which I wrote about here in January and which has about 1.8 million free books.

  Amazon has been paying attention, it seems, to customer interests as expressed for a couple of years now on its own Kindle Community forums in that humongous thread about free books elsewhere and on many blog pages.

  It always interested me that Amazon did allow the extremely-busy message discussions about how to find free books outside Amazon (while the world of news reporters and even e-reader analysts were -- and still are -- constantly writing that Amazon customers could buy e-books for their Kindles only from Amazon, which was never true).  In the last 3 months, I've noticed many Kindle customers now correct those news stories in the comment areas.

Amazon closes its new free-book collections page with
    "Have you seen another great collection of free Kindle books on the web?
     Drop us a line
  So, they are really into this now.  

  It was needed since Barnes & Noble, and Sony, were advertising over a million books for their e-readers after getting the half-million free, pre-1923 Google books that are readable directly on their devices, and counting the ability to read ePub formatted ebooks.  As regular readers of this blog know, while the Kindle doesn't read the Google books direct, Kindle users can easily convert an ePub file to a Kindle-readable one in about 3 minutes using Calibre.

  The Amazon Kindle reads free MOBI files (offered on many book sites) -- in addition to WORD doc files through free Amazon conversion, and also reads pure text-files (*.txt) direct, the latter two not supported by the Nook) but has not counted the free MOBI files elsewhere.  Now it can count non-rights-protected MOBI files on other sites as directly accessible, a good thing to point out, finally, even if that takes customers away from busily buying at the Amazon store itself.  It's probably more beneficial to let people know what the Kindle can read.

Again, Amazon's own set of almost 20,000 free classics, directly downloadable by the Kindle from Amazon for some time, now has an Amazon page of its own.

You can read the Amazon forum discussions for customer reaction to this new welcome feature.

UPDATE - March 3, 2010
I've updated the ongoing Free and Lowcost books page.  Amazon's free book collections don't include feedback.com or manybooks.net, which have good formatting on them.  That continues to be covered by the free-books page here.

  As ever, here is the ongoing set of links for various Searches for free or low-cost Kindle-compatible books. 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.

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  1. This is a great move by Amazon!
    I have one question for you re. Internet Archives. I found & downloaded an older book (there were several versions of it available) but when it appeared on my Kindle, the pages were out of order. I own a paper copy so I could check on this. Sections were out of order, rather unpredictably. Is this an Internet Archive problem? Should I make them aware of it? Or just keep downloading different versions of it until I find one that is properly formatted?
    Seems to me they should not put the improperly formatted ones in their listings. ???

  2. newwine,
    I think there's a place for feedback there, so you should tell them about it if so.

    With 1.8 million books and docs being uploaded and it being a site for (mostly) free books, I don't think they have the manpower to be checking each book for accuracy. It's the chance we take, for the free material, I guess.
    Pretty awful that this would be though.


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