All posts by Ari Sigal

Children’s Books Online: The Rosetta Project — the largest collection of illustrated antique books online

The 10 collections of online sites available to readers for free downloading and reading that we have considered over the past months have almost exclusively focused on books for adults. A number of these sites do include a section for children. However, some sites are devoted exclusively to children’s books, such as Children’s Books Online (CBO), and those books mostly done in a classic time for such writing: between 1880 and 1930.

CBO describes itself in the briefest of terms: It is a library of illustrated books begun in 1996 by just one person with a handful of books. Today it is a volunteer-driven organization of almost 100 residing throughout the world (see long list o volunteers here) who assist in website development and maintenance, and translating many of the titles into a variety of languages. The extent of the collection is not given but I would estimate several thousand volumes have been digitized. Each page of a book is downloadable as a jpg file. Books can be accessed by chapter and even image.

Titles are indexed by age, interest and reading levels, which are categorized from Pre-Reader to Adult.  In addition, downloads (as zip files) of almost 500 titles are available for purchase. CBO relies on donations and grants for this work.  The collection is certainly unique in presenting what many children’s literature specialists consider the Golden Age of the genre.

Open Culture — A mission to collect the content that is free and [arguably] the ‘best in class’

Up to this point, NSR’s Free Content Alerts column has focused almost exclusively on ebooks. Of course, though, the Internet is an expansive place and offers a seemingly endless variety of choices. attempts to partially fill the gap between ecollections and all the variety of other material that has been brought together across the Web. It describes itself this way: “Open Culture editor Dan Colman scours the web for the best educational media. He finds the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & movies you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between. Daily email updates about the site are available as well.” Continue reading Open Culture — A mission to collect the content that is free and [arguably] the ‘best in class’

Library for All — not another ebook collection, but rather an idea

It has been a pleasure and an honor to write about various free ebook collections for the No Shelf Required community. I believe we share a number of commonalities about  reading and ways to make it more accessible apart from historical models  based on a buyer-customer relationship. The nine free e-collections I profiled thusfar have various models by which they operate, but all wish to disseminate information outside of  traditional methods.  And, to go a step further, I would be safe to assume that those of us who read NSR, share Mirela Roncevic’s passion to bypass the corporatized process by which print or electronic books are made available worldwide.  From our perspective, Mirela’s efforts to show that a country in its entirety can be an open virtual library were not merely experimental, but could well be the leading edge of a future norm. Thus it is, dear readers, that, in my tenth post, I want to present you with not another collection, but rather an idea. Continue reading Library for All — not another ebook collection, but rather an idea, an alternative niche for free quality content (including ebooks) in the arts and humanities

At this point in our journey into major sources of free ebooks, we are able to see that some of the collections operate as academic consortia, some use board members to set policies, and still others strive to be a true community of  users (e.g., Unglue.It). This week, we will again focus on the last group because my sense is that this approach to sharing knowledge is where the sympathies of those advocating true free access are. Therefore, I’ve chosen

Eserver is (justifiably) proud of its community and describes itself this way: The EServer is a growing online community where hundreds of writers, artists, editors and scholars gather to publish works as open archives, available free of charge to readers.

In a publishing industry dominated by corporate publishing of books and ebooks, value is placed on works that sell to broad markets. Quick turnover, high-visibility marketing campaigns for bestsellers, and corporate “superstore” bookstores have all made it difficult for unique and older texts to be published. (Further, the costs this marketing adds to all books discourage people from leisure reading as a common practice.) And publishers tend to encourage authors to write books with strong appeal to the current, undermining (if unknowingly) writings with longer-term implications. Continue reading, an alternative niche for free quality content (including ebooks) in the arts and humanities, an ebooks site that functions like a true participatory democracy

This week, we focus on, which also uses a collectivitst approach to DRM (Digital Rights Management), somewhat along the lines used by Knowledge Unlatched (the focus of Free Content Alert last week). was launched in 2012 and is based on the premise that small gifts by many users can free ebooks from the DRM fetters that bind them…in essence, ‘ungluing’ them in a virtual way.

The concept was to use ‘crowdsourcing’, as is done with sites such as Kickstarter and Gofundme. In contrast, Knowledge Unlatched uses membership fees paid by a consortium of academic libraries to purchase the necessary Creative Commons License (CCL)  giving access to verified members of those academic communities.’s method at the outset was described by the Huffington Post here. As I understand it, authors who are independent (or otherwise hold the copyright to their work) set a fee for releasing their work as an ebook. If is interested in acquiring it for their collection, a fundraising campaign to reach that amount in a certain time frame is launched. Various incentives are offered for various levels of gifts, much like fundraising  for public radio and public television in the United States. gives details in its FAQ page. Continue reading, an ebooks site that functions like a true participatory democracy