NEW YORK (MainStreet) — One of the main incentives for buying an e-book reader is taking advantage of the millions of books and magazines whose copyrights have expired and are now available to download digitally for free. But recently, some of the major e-book companies have been found trying to pull a fast one on consumers and charge for books that should cost nothing.
The Washington Post reports that Amazon currently charges anywhere from 99 cents to $4 for several Kindle e-books that are available free elsewhere online. The books in question include titles like Fox Trapping by Arthur Robert Harding, and Canadian Wilds by Martin Hunter. These texts were scanned and uploaded online by Project Gutenberg, a popular website that lets users download books whose copyrights have run out.
According to the Post, “The titles in question aren't just public domain books that have long been freely available at such sites as Project Gutenberg. They appear to be the exact Gutenberg files, save only for minor formatting adjustments and the removal of that volunteer-run site's license information.”
But it seems Amazon is not the only retailer doing this.
Dozens of customers have complained on Barnes & Noble’s comment board that the company charges for public domain editions of e-books, like stories by the Brothers Grimm and Charles Dickens’ classic, A Tale of Two Cities.
As the Post notes however, public domain e-books are allowed to be uploaded and resold by third party sellers, which means companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble are not actually breaking any law here.
However, consumers should be mindful before spending money on classic e-books. Generally speaking, any book published before 1923 has had its copyright expire and is now part of the public domain. The copyrights on books published after that expire in 95 years. So pay attention to the publication date of the books you’re looking to download.