Thing 8: Project Gutenberg

A book’s copyright lapses 70 years after the author’s death. Because of this there is a huge catalogue of titles, which can be made freely available to everyone in electronic format – these are known as public domain works, and include works from many of our best loved authors: Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, and many more. One of the first places online to take advantage of this fact was Project Gutenberg ( who have been creating and sharing free e-books in one form or another for over four decades, making them the oldest digital library in the world.

With the recent boom in e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, e-books are becoming increasingly popular and increasingly convenient. But you don’t need to own an e-reader to access the books on Project Gutenberg as we’ll see below. There are currently over 40,000 free titles on the site, and below I’ll explain how to access these:

Accessing Free E-Books on Project Gutenberg

1. Open a web browser and navigate to This will take you to Project Gutenberg’s homepage – it’s a little old-fashioned in web terms, but it’s still functional!

2. On the left hand menubar you will see a search box under the term ‘search book catalog’. Enter the title of a book you’d like to search for and the author’s surname then press enter on the keyboard to execute the search.

3. The search results will list all e-books that are available with a few basic details. You may find some titles are listed several times, as occassionally several different people have uploaded an e-version of the same title. Find an entry that matches your search and click on the title.

4. This will take you through the catalogue entry for the title and will display the different formats in which the book is available. There is often an option to ‘Read this book online…’, clicking on this will display the book through your web browser. Below this is a list of file types that you can download. If you want to read the book on an e-reader like a Kindle you’d need to download the correct file and transfer it to your device. Which file you’ll need depends on which e-reader you use.

Thing 8

For this thing, all you need to do is search for an e-book and access it online – happy reading! And if you’re blogging, don’t forget to post your thoughts on Project Gutenberg and free e-books in general.


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Filed under Copyright, Thing 8, Week 3

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