When I got my first e-reader several years ago, I knew Project Gutenberg existed. I knew that if an author had died over 100 years ago, their works were in the public domain, and that Project Gutenberg made thousands of books available for free.
But I didn’t really get it. I did most of my book browsing through my e-reader itself where books must be purchased, or via the library, which has all the classics for free, but which also required a bunch of downloading and side-loading gymnastics to check out a book from the library and get it onto my Nook. This required additional software and logins and all kinds of garbage that were a pain, and which ultimately led to me buying a Kobo e-reader because it’s the best for using directly with public libraries, without laptops, cables, or additional software.
Except, recently, I tried to get a Jane Austen book from my library, and I couldn’t get it directly on my Kobo. I had to download it to my laptop, run it through Adobe digital editions, for which I lost my password and also hadn’t set up on my e-reader, and then sideload it through yet another series of goofy steps. Because of the lost password, I couldn’t get the book at all, and I ended up abandoning it. The same thing happened with Crime and Punishment, which I ended up buying even though the library had a digital copy.
It wasn’t until my husband recently got a Kobo as well, and started reading tons of classics, that I realized exactly what Project Gutenberg is, and how easy it is to use. I knew he wouldn’t have messed with all those complicated steps to get all these books, nor would he be buying them, so I asked him how he was getting them all.
He downloads directly from Project Gutenberg to his laptop, then plugs in his Kobo and drags the ePub file to the device. He does not go through the library, he does not use any software.
So of course I had to check this out for myself, and LAAAAAAAA! Look at all these books! Anna Karenina, Pride and Prejudice, The Secret Garden, Moby Dick, The House of Seven Gables. And the authors! Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Poe, the Brontë sisters. I read Jane Eyre from a Project Gutenberg download, and now I’m reading H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. And it was so easy! No software! No complicated workflows! And the formatting is great when I read! I can still adjust font sizes, I can still look up words and highlight passages. And, when I don’t know exactly what I want to read next, I can browse the top downloads to jog my memory of what classics are even out there that I might want to read.
This is a highlight of 2020 for me.
2 thoughts on “Project Gutenberg: a library of free classics at my fingertips”
Just as impactful as the other Gutenberg project (also open, free, useful). 😃
It’s great for writer’s research and finding old out of print regional fairy tales, too!
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