PSA: Don't Pay for Free Books on Kindle

Ryan Whitwam

The Washington Post reported today that some Kindle users may be paying for books that, by all accounts, should be free. Many classic titles are showing up on the Kindle store that appear to be from Project Gutenberg. There are not just the same books, but are rather the actual Gutenberg files with only minor formatting tweaks. The header and footer where the Gutenberg license is contained is also stripped out.

Books like John R. Lockard's "Bee Hunting" and Martin Hunter's "Canadian Wilds" are selling for $3.69 and $3.16 respectively. On Project Gutenburg, these public domain books are free. Amazon responded to these concerns indicating that these volumes are being sold by a third party using Amazon's self-publishing platform.

Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation CEO Greg Newby said this was legal, but unethical. Some of the Gutenberg works are showing up on Kindle only a day or two after becoming available in Project Gutenberg. People seem to have realized they can harvest these works, and make a little profit. Do you think Amazon should allow people to charge for Gutenberg books?

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