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Summary:

If you were concerned that you’d only be able to read things on your iPad if you ponied up some cash for the privilege, even if that amount turns out to be less than expected, worry no more. The iPad will launch with 30,000 free e-books.

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If you were concerned that you’d only be able to read things on your iPad if you ponied up some cash for the privilege, even if that amount turns out to be less than expected, worry no more. The NDA-busting source that’s been showing off all things iBooks to AppAdvice.com has revealed another tantalizing detail.

Specifically, it’s the news that the iPad will launch with 30,000 free e-books. That’s mostly public domain content, which you should technically be able to get on your device anyway with a little elbow grease, but it’s a great deal better being able to access the directly and wireless via the iBookstore.

The free books will be provided via Project Gutenberg, which has set about archiving digital editions of public domain books using the Internet. Any and all free titles will be DRM-free, as opposed to the DRM-enabled paid content.

 Apple’s decision to offer the books on launch day is seen as stemming from two major motivating factors. First, Apple wants to curtail any kind profiteering by third-party companies using public domain content. If you’ve glanced at the Books section of the App Store, you’ll see that quite a few developers won’t be pleased with this move, but I applaud Apple for putting the customers first.

Of course, Apple’s not acting purely out of concern for others. It’s also anxious about looking somewhat content-bare when the iPad does launch, at least regarding iBookstore content. 30,000 titles should flesh out the ranks nicely, even if some of Apple’s overtures to publishers providing paid content don’t come through on the day.

Now when it comes to apps, free ones do much better than their paid cousins. I’m curious to see if this trend continues with books. For whatever reason, I find myself shying away from public domain books on my Kindle, and I suspect the same will happen with the iPad. Any predictions regarding your own reading habits?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Evolution of the e-Book Market

  1. I’ve been downloading Project Gutenberg books for years (and most recently, to read on the iPhone Stanza app, but it’s great that Apple has chosen to “seed” the iBookstore with these titles. I’m in the middle of Trollope’s six Palliser novels now, every one of them free from PG.

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  2. And just how good are these books? Project Gutenberg has only recently began to move away from its decades-old fetish with plain-ASCII-only books. That policy meant that italics became ugly underscores, characters that aren’t in U.S. English were crudely transliterated, and (worse of all) there were no graphics, just text, text, and text.

    That matters. Recently, I’ve been re-reading on my iPod touch some of the classic adventure tales for boys that I first read long ago. Jules Vernes’ classic Mysterious Island came up serious lacking without any maps of the island. The same frustration is happening right now with The Riddle of the Sands, a marvelous spy/sailing thriller circa 1904. Since the author assumed maps would be in the book, no maps mean much confusion.

    In addition, given that Apple is one of the most profit-laden, price-inflating corporations on the planet, it’s really out of place to refer to this as Apple acting to prevent “profiteering” or to claim that they’re “putting customers first.” A junior high student could see through the flaws in that reasoning.

    With the tinniest fraction of its tens of billions in cash reserves, Apple could fully fund the creation of carefully proofed, high-quality, graphics-rich ePub editions of these classic, public-domain books and release them to the world. An Apple that really cared (and had a sense of taste for books) wouldn’t be foisting freebie Project Gutenberg ASCII books on us in what sounds more like little more than silly vendetta against half-starved iPad developers who intend to give us editions that are better than Apple’s versions.

    Maybe Apple does have these plans in mind. If they do, I commend them. But if they do, why haven’t they mentioned it? There’s no profit-incentitive in keeping such plans secret. It’d even make sense to split up the task with other major companies (Amazon, Google, Sony….) and prevent duplication of effort. It’d be good public relations.

    Personally, I’m growing tired of all the crude, ugly, misguided efforts to put all the books in the world online, whether as dumb ASCII, or poorly organized and badly OCRed scans. That’s not creating a library. It’s creating a digital wasteland.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of Untangling Tolkien

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  3. [...] Click here for more details. Tags: Apple iPad Launch, Free Ebooks For iPad, free iBooks, iPad Ebook Reader, iPad Ebooks [...]

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  4. It is a nice promotional method to give free e books out. This is Apple’s way to promote sales.

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  5. I’d say the answer is that most people are not interested in public domain – read ‘old’ – books. 

    As for me, I love ‘em. Even the OCR ones others complain about. All make for great reads when on public transit. Recently I read some Chekhov and Dumas stories which were delightful to read even though they looked like photocopies of the original publication. I rather preferred seeing the typeset and illustrations as they were.

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  6. …and for once again Mr Jobs will make cash out of nothing (project Gutenberg exists for ages, and its books can be read in any e-book reader device/sw with extreme ease)

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  7. [...] iPad to Offer 30,000 Free e-Books at Launch Mac Love [...]

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  8. [...] The Apple Blog announced that the new iPad was going to be offering 30,000 free eBooks. The thing is, the free books are all [...]

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  9. I’ve been very happy with the Project Guttenberg books through the Stanza app for the iPhone. They have the full functionality of any eBook on the iphone’s Stanza reader (though the Mac desktop version does not properly respond to chapter locations on Guttenberg eBooks). The project has worked very hard on updatin gformats and proofreading. (They accept volunteers, BTW….all booklovers should pitch in!) If Apple can reproduce this, we all will have a winner.

    Any chance of the iBookstore coming to iPhone as an app,? Given this economy, it may be a while until I get my hands on an iPad…..

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