Searching for an economical way to share a classic text with your class? Instead of wearing out the old copier at the bricks-and-mortar library, try browsing the virtual shelves at Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org), an online collection of more than 19,000 free e-books. The initiative, conceived by Michael Hart in 1971, publishes titles that have entered the public domain, either because the copyright has lapsed or the copyright holder has released the work to the public. Because most books with expired copyrights were published before 1923, the site’s virtual shelves are stocked mainly with classics. Works by authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, and William Shakespeare are among the most popular downloads. Volunteers run the site and choose the books to be electronically “published,” with an average of about 400 titles added each month. Texts are available in many languages and in a variety of formats, including those that allow printing or downloading onto an MP3 player or handheld computer.
A version of this article appeared in the October 01, 2006 edition of Teacher