with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

The Online Books Page

The Online Books Page by onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu, offers over 20,000 books for free on the Web. It’s updated fairly frequently. Always on the lookout for free books to download and read on my hand held computer, I thought I would check out this free book resource.

First, I wanted to know what books were included. Are these freebies that lure you into reading more or just books found from the Gutenberg Book Project that can be found there? Or is there some catch? This is what I found out.

From their What Goes in the Online Books Indexes:

A book is considered legitimately available if any one of these conditions holds:
* It is not copyrighted in the country from which the online book is served. To qualify under this condition, the country must be a signatory of the Berne Convention, or the book must be out of copyright under the minimal standards of that convention.
* The appropriate copyright holder has granted permission for free personal, noncommercial online use. (The exact terms for any copyrighted work may vary. Terms that allow wider use than this are also acceptable.)
* In some special circumstances, some copyrighted works can also go online without permission under special licenses granted by law.

Okay, so now what is ON the list?

Well, one look at their New Books Online List shows dozens of books being added almost EVERY DAY. Some are from Gutenberg, but others are from all over the place. Isaac Goldberg, Frederick Martin, James Russel Lowell, Arthur Conan Doyle, Plato, Edgar Allan Poe, Plutarch, and more.

For the most part, the books are “old” but that does not denigrate their quality. Basically, expired copyrights and out-of-print. But the sheer numbers are amazing.

The site itself is clean but akward to use. Searching through authors, you have to choose the first letter of the author’s last name. Then you are given a list of about 25 authors. And the list stops. You may think it odd to look at a list of “P” authors and the only ones on the list start with “Pa”. What about “Pe” or “Po”? Ah, discovered you have to click the NEXT link to go deeper into the alphabet. There is PLENTY of room to list these in columns or provide a link that says “To continue through the letter, click here” or something a little more user friendly. It’s an old looking site but it does the job.

The Subjects Page is definitely more helpful if you aren’t sure of the author or book title and just want to browse by topic. Topics include Philosophy, Psychology, and Religion (an interesting grouping); History; Geography, Antrhopology, Folklore, Recreation (another odd grouping); Political Science; Law, Education; Music; Fine Arts; Science; Medicine; Agriculture; and others.

The subject cateory of Language and Literature caught my eye. There I found Noam Chomsky: Necessary Illusions and A New Latin Composition (revised edition, c1919) to tickle my fancy.

The books are primarily in HTML and PDF formats, though a few are in text form. Depending upon the software you have for reading books on your computer or hand held computer, you may have to either use conversion software or do a little copy and paste into text or whatever format you need. And not all of the links work. Some have either been moved or closed, but keep looking.

This is a great resource and worthy of exploring especially if you are into ancient texts.

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