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Amazon charge people for free ebooks (and other BS)

So you may have read one of these stories going around about Amazon charging for free ebooks, all of which were sparked by a story in the Washington Post yesterday. Right now I’m sitting back and getting irritated by everyone (well, almost everyone) who has written one of those stories. That little piece of information is not news, and it is also out of context.

It is not news becuase there have been people charging for public domain ebooks forever. It did not start happening recently; it has happened since the first ebookstore opened.

It is also out of context becuase most of the stories fail to mention that most of the other ebookstores have this same problem.You can find people selling public domain ebooks in Fictionwise, B&N, Redgroup, and Sony, and that’s just the ones I bothered to check. Amazon are not alone in this, and they should not have been singled out. Furthermore, Amazon also maintain an extensive collection of free ebooks; you just have to go look for them.

Here’s the thing. What we’re looking at here is something called a convenience tax. In buying pd ebooks you’re paying to avoid the hassle of having to go out and look for a free copy. The convenience tax is why, for example, things cost more at a store near the interstate than at one far away. This is a normal part of economics.

BTW, I would never criticize anyone who has purchased a public domain ebook. I have. I’m irritated by the bloggers, not the customers.

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Mike Cane December 1, 2010 um 8:16 am

Before they was ever e, there was Dover Publications, offering PD books in print for pay:

It’s the Google Books PD ripoff that’s galling, with the thieves DMCAing away the PD editions so they can have a competition-free playing field.

Nate the great December 1, 2010 um 8:17 am

Did you ever write a post about that?

Mike Cane December 1, 2010 um 6:04 pm

Hell yes!

Also emailed link to WaPo yesterday too after their article.

fjtorres December 1, 2010 um 8:40 am

As somebody who has repeatedly bought the entire Black Mask collection on CD & DVD repeatedly (in mutiple formats) I see nothing wrong in paying a reasonable fee for the convenience of cleanly formatted and pre-sorted PD books.
I recently dropped a decent chunk of change picking up the entire HYPERION BOOKS "Golden Age" SF anthologies over at Amazon, fully aware that the contents is PD. But the anthologies are fairly priced and collect a lot of really good material that, to me, is worth the price just for the convenience of getting it in a nice convenient set.

I know *exactly* what it takes to craft these files as I’ve downloaded the Gutenberg DVD image and run the prettifier and created batch files to convert it to various ebook formats and I *know* it takes a *lot* of time and effort. And I wasn’t even cleaning them up, just converting and sorting. I’ll not begrudge anybody a fair return on their effort.

My best guess is the whiners need a dictionary to look up "Public Domain". These people seem to think Public Domain equals GPL.

Zigwalski December 1, 2010 um 11:36 am

Plus this is not the case if someone advertising Free Donuts and then telling you they are a dollar. When you buy one of these books, you know you are buying one.

Andrys December 1, 2010 um 10:52 pm

Say, nothing wrong with doing a blog entry on it (as you just did) to show the pros and cons of the story and what really is going on in general and the context of it all. The comments in each case have really helped too. Open airing of the issue is fine.

I do think Project Gutenberg ought to LET people reference Project Gutenberg’s earlier work earlier on the text made from scanned images even if the person is charging for the additional work.

And they ought to let the volunteers who help them, know that Project Gutenberg INSISTS that references to the Project Gutenberg work be removed if someone wants to charge for the added labor involved (which is NOT really negligible to get it into Amazon format if done right).

Nate the great December 1, 2010 um 11:36 pm

Pros and cons are good, but I woke up that morning t0 find 40 or so stories, most of which were written by people who don’t know anything about the issue. For that matter, the author of the original WaPo article didn’t adequately understand it either.

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