Finding a Digital Public Domain Book
An avid Public Library user asked me if there was some way to access the book “Daddy Long Legs” by Jean Webster without having to submit to the Library’s Overdrive system. My friend believes this book was published around 1912, which places it squarely in the Public Domain.
(This is not to single out any particular library… my understanding is that “Public Libraries” all seem to have fallen into the thrall of Overdrive… I’ll blog about why people might want to avoid the odious Overdrive and DRM later.)
Any number of “free websites” like Public Bookshelf allow you to read online so they can serve you ads:
For myself, I prefer to go the free-as-in-freedom route. The first place to look for any Public Domain digital book is online at the awesome Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/157
PG has been digitizing books since the 1970’s, so they have a very good selection. Sure enough, PG does have “Daddy Long-Legs” which you can:
(1) read online, or
- in the Kindle proprietary format or
- in the free eBook standard ePub, which can be read with any ePub reader on any digital device, or
- in Plain Text.
Plain Text can be read in your computer’s text reader (Notepad or Geddit etc.)
If you don’t know if you have an ePub Reader, the one everyone can use is FBReader, the Free and Gratis ePub reader I know will work on windows, mac, GNU/linux, tablets/phones etc Download it free/gratis at http://fbreader.org/. (I am pretty sure this is the reader that comes native with the Calibre eBook conversion software.]
- as a digital audio book free/gratis from Librevox [https://librivox.org/daddy-long-legs-by-jean-webster/]
- where it is actually stored on Internet Archive [https://archive.org/details/daddy-long-legs_librivox)]
- or you can listen to the whole Librivox ebook on YouTube
- If you prefer movies, you can watch Mary Pickford in the 1919 Public Domain movie on YouTube
- which you can also download from Internet Archive
[There are also what I presume to be copyright encumbered film versions, like the Fred Astaire musical version:
and the 1970s animated version:
Either of these would be illegal to copy if they are still in copyright… they may or may not be; but it would take research to find out for sure, so until you know either way,it is always safest to assume the worst.]
If you are looking for digital Public Domain books, the best place to get them is not from the Public Library. The problem is that even Public Domain books that library patrons acquire through Overdrive come encumbered with DRM and/or TOS requirements.
In these days of copyright insanity, we at least ought to be able to access unencumbered Public Domain work. Why should some faceless corporate entity have the right to tell us what we can or can’t do with works in the Public Domain… because the Public Domain belongs to the public– and that’s you and me.
For future reference, when you’re looking for Public Domain material, always check the free-as-in-freedom & gratis Project Gutenberg, Project Gutenberg Canada, archive.org and Librivox, because they very often have them. (And, if you’ve a little extra time on your hands, these wonderful public service organizations are always in the market for volunteers.)