I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for free books. Whenever the school library is weeding out the collection, I’m invariably digging through the boxes of castaways, looking for something of interest. I always walk away with a small pile. And I even read some of them. Sometimes.
And so, in this 21st century post-information-age, when there’s no premium on information, and a quick Google search can answer most of the questions that a trip to the library can answer, I’m still oddly attracted to books. I’ve blogged about free books online five times. I’ve written about textbooks nearly as many times. And yet, here I go again.
This time, it’s Wowio. Go to the web site. Create an account. You have to provide a little more information than most of these sites. You have to prove that you’re in the United States, too. After that, you have a free account, and can download up to three e-books per day.
The books are in PDF format. I can read them on my computer. I can put them on my PDA. I’d like to put them on my mp3 player, but I don’t think that’s possible yet. I can’t print them. I can’t distribute them.
What kind of books? I started with Vonnegut. I’ve been wanting to re-read his earlier novels, but the local library doesn’t have them, and I’m too cheap to buy them. So I downloaded Player Piano and The Sirens of Titan. I also downloaded a book on religion, and one on, uhh, fermented beverages. That’s enough to last a while.
How is this possible? They’ve worked out a deal with the publishers that allows them to license the work, and they use advertising to pay for it. Each book as an advertisement at the beginning and at the end (though I haven’t seen any in the middle of the work. The web site also has ads.
The books don’t appear to use DRM. That is, there isn’t any copy protection. But they do customize the downloads, so my name is embedded on several pages of the book, along with a clear message saying that it’s specifically licensed to me. So if I start distributing these things, they’ll know pretty quickly where they’re coming from.
A high school English teacher once advised us to always be reading something. It doesn’t necessarily matter if it has any significant literary value. And it doesn’t matter if it takes months to get through it. But there shouldn’t be a time when you’re not in the process of reading something. I try to do that most of the time, and now I have a new source for reading material.