Project Gutenberg is a website which serves as a repository for the world’s classic, public domain books. It currently stores about 57 thousand titles in many languages. Books on the site are full-text, generally free and legal to downloaded any number of times. The digital formats used for the books are meant to keep them as accessible as possible over the course of time. I first learned of Project Gutenberg in the mid 1990’s, long before e-readers or tablets; however, the site now supports the Kindle and Nook format, among others, so there’s no reason not to enjoy them on your Kindle Fire, Nook, Paperweight or more!
You might be a reader who tends to focus on ” the classics “; that’s great, head to Project Gutenberg rightaway! Or you might be someone who usually reads new books; and in that case, Project Gutenberg can be your ancillary backup, when every new title you want is checked out on eLibraryNJ (or you’ve reached your maximum number of checkouts there). Or Project Gutenberg might serve as that occasional resource you use when you just want to skim an old book. For example, I knew the autobiography of Ulysses S. Grant would be on Project Gutenberg, and having recently read a news article about Abraham Lincoln, I wanted to read the parts of Grant’s autobiography wherein he describes the Lincoln he knew. So I accessed the full-text of The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant on Project Gutenberg, pressed ” Control F ” on my keyboard and typed ” Lincoln ” in the search boxed that opened. I then found and read every mention of Lincoln in the book — or enough to satisfy my curiosity.
You can search for titles available in Project Gutenberg in several ways. There is an Online Book Catalog search feature, which makes it easy to browse for ebook by author, title, language and more. There are links for Basic Search and Advanced Search. I recommend using the advanced search feature, where you can specify format, author, Library of Congress Subject Heading and more in a search form. Within the site you can also search for ebooks by popularity, Top 100, recently added ebooks and much more.
Now, there are some audiobook files available on Project Gutenberg, but Project Gutenberg is not adding anymore at this time. You can search for these files using the advanced search option; there are generally two options for listening to these files (recording of a human speaker or an automatically generated computer speech). You may simply click on the files to listen to them, or download them to add to a portable device (although these files may be larger and will need to be converter to a format like mp3).
Getting Your Books!
You don’t need an app to read e-books on Project Gutenberg. You can simply read them from within your web browser. Or if you’d rather read them on an e-reader with its own digital bookshelf, you can do the following:
Step 1. Download the book file you want on Project Gutenberg. Make sure you choose a format compaible with your e-reader device.
Step 2. Plug a USB cable into your computer, and the other end into your e-reader device. Make sure your e-reader device is powered on.
Step 3. A folder should automatically open on your computer afer completing Step 2; the folder should reveal one or more folders within your e-reader device. Open the folder/folders to see which one contains e-book files.
Step 4. Looking at your computer screen, drag and drop the icon of the e-book file that you downloaded to your Downloads folder into the correct folder of your e-reader device (as determined in step 3). Once this is done, remove the USB cable from your e-reader and computer. Look for the e-book file on the book shelf of your e-reader. Click on it to open it.
Instead of using a USB cable you may be able to use Bluetooth to transfer your downloaded e-book to your e-reader. You also may be able to find third party software that will work with Project Gutenberg to make transfering ebooks to your e-reader more convenient (although I suspect this might invite more complexity than necessary). For more information on using your mobile devices, read here.
If you would like to get an RSS feed of new book titles as they are added to Project Gutenberg, you can add this feed to your RSS reader.
In conclusion, Project Gutenberg is a wonderful resource that takes a very democratic approach to book sharing, which you should investigate. The name itself hints at inspiration taken from the transformative spirit and power of the Gutenberg Press long ago.