Category Archives: Free Content

Thousands of images from Gabriel García Márquez Archive Now Online via University of Texas at Austin

Most important part first: view the images here. The Archive, belonging to the University of Texas at Austin’s Harry Ransom Center, was acquired in 2014 and has been opened since 2015. The digitalization, which, the university reports, took 18 months to complete, involved the efforts of archivists, students, librarians, and conservators, among others.

Included in the Archive are 27,000 images and 22 personal scrapbooks and notebooks, among them a memoir, screenplays, photos, etc.

From the university’s site:

The papers (English | Spanish) of Gabriel García Márquez, acquired by the Ransom Center in 2014, include original manuscript material, predominantly in Spanish, for 10 books, more than 2,000 pieces of correspondence, drafts of his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, more than 40 photograph albums documenting all aspects of his life over nearly nine decades, the Smith Corona typewriters and computers on which he wrote some of the twentieth century’s most beloved works, and scrapbooks meticulously documenting his career via news clippings from Latin America and around the world.

An inventory of the papers can be found in the following finding aids:

Read the full press release on the university web site here.

This Library Wants Every Book—Including Indies: The Internet Archive’s Open Library Project

What kind of a library would have a totally open collection development policy? If it’s a book, they want it. If it’s a political ad on TV, they want it. If it’s a sound recording—you guessed it—they want it. It’s the Internet Archive. It wants to preserve digital copies of everything and then share them with the world through its Open Library project.

Mirela Roncevic, Director of No Shelf Required, and I have begun work on a book about cutting edge ebook projects and trends. ALA Editions will publish it in the fall of 2018. As part of my research, I am learning about the Internet Archive and their Open Library Project. The forthcoming book will contain a detailed description of the project, including an analysis of the legal issues surrounding scanning and lending copies of books. Mary Minow, the leading authority on library law, will author the chapter. Today’s article will focus on how indie authors can benefit from the Internet Archive and Open Library.

Before diving into the Internet Archive and the Open Library Project, let’s ask ourselves some questions about the value of books and other cultural expressions. If you are an indie author, you may have already asked yourself these questions. Continue reading This Library Wants Every Book—Including Indies: The Internet Archive’s Open Library Project

With the recent addition of Florida’s collections, Digital Public Library of America now comprises 18 million resources

From DPLA:

We are pleased to announce that over 74,000 new materials from Florida’s Sunshine State Digital Network (SSDN) are now discoverable in DPLA. Please join us in welcoming SSDN partners Florida State University, University of Miami, and Florida International University to the DPLA network.

With this new content, DPLA now makes over 18 million resources available to all, but it’s not about the numbers for us. Each new partner, institution, and collection added to DPLA means we expand the network of people, communities, and stories that we represent and can share with you, our community. Newly added collections from Sunshine State Digital Network provide rich content documenting Florida’s unique culture, landscape, and people, as well as materials that represent and reflect our shared national heritage. Continue reading With the recent addition of Florida’s collections, Digital Public Library of America now comprises 18 million resources

[Re]introducing the Freda app: DRM-free public domain titles in ePub format

Have you heard of the Freda (short for ‘Free Reader’) app? It is a free ebook reading app that allows users to read free ebooks and other content in epub format, but it can also read books in FB2, TXT and HTML formats.  The app is free but ad-supported, in the form of a single banner ad from the app’s home screen, which can be removed with a $1.99 in-app purchase.

Users can use Freda to read non-DRM epubs on any Windows platform and, as of last week, the app is also available for Android devices (in beta version). Freda comes with a number of classic public domain titles displayed on the homescreen and it includes links to several online sources, including, among others, Project Gutenberg, Feedbooks and Smashwords, where users go to select free ebooks to download them into their app collection.

In addition to being able to pull books from other web sites, the app can also access books on DropBox, SkyeDrive and removable storage cards.

This is how Chris Meadows described the app in a Teleread review published last year: “the real magic of Freda comes from the reading interface, because it has a clean interface, excellent layout control, and literally the most expansive reading options screen I’ve ever seen on any e-reader application. In a new Teleread post last week, David Rothman sheds light on some new features. Read it here here.

Clearly, the app is being developed slowly, with a great deal of feedback from users, and it continues to improve its functionalities.

Two million open access nature illustrations available on Flickr via Biodiversity Heritage Library

From Open Culture:

“The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), an ‘open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives,’ has for many years been making it easy for people to connect to nature through nature writing and illustration. In 2012, they announced the “success story” of their Flickr streams, both containing thousands of illustrations and photographs uploaded by the BHL staff and readers from their huge collections of books.

The first stream, currently at 122,281 images, has been carefully curated, and includes searchable galleries and albums divided by book title or subject…The second stream, consisting of over 2 million images, is a massive grab-bag of photos, illustrations from nature, advertisements, and imaginative renderings.”

Read the full article here.


More about BHL, as noted on its web site:

“The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global “biodiversity commons.” The BHL consortium works with the international taxonomic community, rights holders, and other interested parties to ensure that this biodiversity heritage is made available to a global audience through open access principles. In partnership with the Internet Archive and through local digitization efforts, the BHL has digitized millions of pages of taxonomic literature, representing over 120,000 titles and over 200,000 volumes.”

StoryCorps and the Great Thanksgiving Listen

Besides engaging with what authors and performers have created through audiobooks, the sound of storytelling extends to creating and listening to family stories, neighborhood stories, captured memories of unwritten, and otherwise unscripted, events, and conversations. The work of StoryCorps addresses this by providing both structure for and preservation of such recordings. Recordings made in StoryCorps booths, which pop up around the country on well publicized schedules, are accepted by the Library of Congress as part of the American archives of cultural and popular history. StoryCorps has won a variety of humanities distinctions, including the Peabody Award (2007).

For several years, StoryCorps has been promoting The Great Thanksgiving Listen, a guided opportunity for those gathered with multiple generations to celebrate the holiday. With the goal of creating “a culture of listening,” this effort points directly to the power of listening in communication, intergenerational honor, and understanding. Directions are specific, simple to follow, and require virtually nothing to attain satisfying results. The event is suggested for families, classes of all ages, and neighborhood gathering places. Continue reading StoryCorps and the Great Thanksgiving Listen

Nearly 1500 high-resolution images of paintings and other works of art made available for free download by the Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia has been digitizing its vast collection of objects (4000 and counting) for some time now. It has recently made available for free download in the public domain nearly 1500 items in high resolution,  including paintings by impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modern masters like Giorgio de Chirico, Henri Rousseau, Vincent Van Gogh, and Auguste Renoir.

Currently, digital images of more than 2,000 works of art in the Barnes Foundation’s collection are available to the public online. The Foundation encourages “use, enjoyment, and sharing of these images while respecting artists’ rights and copyright.” Each work is assigned a “rights statement” that helps communicate the Foundation’s assessment of the copyright status of the work (e.g., Public Domain, In Copyright, Copyright Undetermined).

According to its web site,  the “Public Domain” categorization is used when the Foundation believes a work of art to be free of known restrictions under copyright law. The Foundation makes those images available for high-resolution download “without charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial.”

Browse the Barnes Collection here.

Book a Free Skype Visit with a Narrator

The Audio Publishers Association coordinates a literacy initiative, Sound Learning APA, to collect and disseminate research and guidance in support of multimodal literacy. The initiative is run by volunteers with professional backgrounds in teaching, library service, and audiobook distribution and publishing. While the first years of Sound Learning efforts concentrated on collecting and organizing bibliographies and audiographies and publicizing their availability, with other supportive news, through Twitter and Facebook, a new phase is now underway.

A variety of professional narrators, featuring those with backgrounds in teaching, theater direction, and coaching, have also volunteered to become active in Sound Learning’s efforts. Librarians, teachers, and coordinators of book groups or other clubs can now contact Sound Learning to arrange for a free Skype visit with a narrator matched to their needs. (Use “Narrator Skype visit inquiry” as the subject line when emailing). Continue reading Book a Free Skype Visit with a Narrator

I [Still] Want My Wikipedia!

Over 11 years ago, I co-wrote and edited an article for Library Journal with three librarians (during my days as Senior Book Review Editor for the magazine), whom I asked to test Wikipedia as a bona fide research tool at a time most scholars were adamantly resisting it. This article was published some five years after Wikipedia first launched, which was in 2001. In the article, I Want My Wikipedia!, a younger version of me wondered, “But like any form of government, democracy faces a unique set of problems: once given the power (to edit), will people abuse it?”

To give the article more balance, I recruited three librarians and subject specialists whom I had worked with on other LJ-related endeavors—Barry X. Miller (pop culture), Karl Helicher (current affairs), and Teresa Berry (science)—and asked each to give their verdict on the source’s authenticity. After reading their lengthy reviews, I concluded that “while there are still reasons to proceed with caution when using a resource that takes pride in limited professional management, many encouraging signs suggest that (at least for now) Wikipedia may be granted the librarian’s seal of approval.” Continue reading I [Still] Want My Wikipedia!

De Gruyter launches Science Discoveries, science news site to feature information based on published research

De Gruyter has recently launched Science Discoveries, an international science news site focused on research advancements in medicine, health, environment and technology. The site features selected research published in De Gruyter journals.

From the press release:

Publishing article highlights as well as multimedia content several times a week, Science Discoveries aims to showcase peer-reviewed scientific research in a context that helps scientific advancements reach a wider audience, not only academics and professionals, but also general science enthusiasts.

Featured research currently available includes an article on the devastating effect natural disasters have on pets and livestock from the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (JHSEM), a contribution on insect silk and its medical application from the Journal of Biosciences, and an article entitled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” on human aggression from the journal NeuroForum. Continue reading De Gruyter launches Science Discoveries, science news site to feature information based on published research

Introducing The Short Story Project: A whole new way to discover, curate and appreciate short stories

Literary short stories rarely, if ever, get a chance to make an impression on their own terms, as they are usually buried in print anthologies that get lost quickly in an ever-expanding universe of published content. When short stories are given a new life in digital format—not only by extracting existing texts and migrating them online but also by translating them into several languages and adding original audio elements to each—as is the case with The Short Story Project—their impact is undeniable.

Professional reviewer Michael Rogers here sheds light on this mighty new entrant into the digital publishing and library market. NSR is pleased to publish this review and we look forward to following TSSP’s progress and development in the months and years to come.—Ed.


Stories that cross the line

Launched in 2015, The Short Story Project (TSSP) hosts a wide selection of short fiction from noted international authors. The acclaimed site—nominated for the London Book Fair’s Literary Translation Initiative Award in 2016, among others—also co-exists as an app of the same name for Androids and iOS devices. It was founded upon the belief that “reading is an experience that can make a difference. An experience that enables reflection on the human condition, inspires empathy and encourages examination; that reading is more than a pastime; it is an activity that can serve as a bridge between people and cultures, a sounding board for voices and ideas.” This belief is evident in many details, including TSSP’s tagline (Stories that Cross the Line).

TSSP endeavors to promote that philosophy through the “lively, stimulating presence of short fiction in contemporary culture,” enabling the “voices of writers from across the world be heard and resonate.” It is the creation of Iftach Alony, an Israeli-born business man with a history of successful entrepreneurial ventures. Alony is the author of two novels (2009’s Thief of Dreams, and 2012’s best-selling Spare Parts), the short story collections, Garuda’s Gaze and Plagues (of Egypt) Now (2015 and 2017, respectively), as well as the poetry collections, Let the Thorns Die (2013) and Gravity (2014). He also is the founder and coeditor of Block Magazine, a producer of several travel-films, and has served as a judge for short story competitions and other literary endeavors. Continue reading Introducing The Short Story Project: A whole new way to discover, curate and appreciate short stories

The British Library provides access to over a million vintage images on Flickr

More and more copyright-free images and illustrations are available freely online without a library card. Many of these initiatives are driven by libraries and various other government institutions. As they should be.

The British Library’s archive on Flickr includes over a million free images and illustrations. They are drawn from 17th, 18th and 19-century books in the Library’s collection, located in the main building in London. The archive is divided into themes including, among many others, Women of the World, Decorations & Design,  Space & SciFi, Architecture, Portraits, Book Covers, Illustrated Lettering, Children’s Book Illustration, Technology & Industry, and Fauna.

For other sites offering free vintages images, consider also the following:

How enormous is Sci-Hub? And does its size signal the end of paywalled research?

According to biodata scientist Daniel Himmelstein (University of Pennsylvania ) and his colleagues, who recently conducted a survey that investigated the impact of the web site and its repository, “Sci-Hub can instantly provide access to more than two-thirds of all scholarly articles.  The self-proclaimed “first pirate website in the world to provide mass and public access to tens of millions of research papers” (as stated on its homepage)  continues to grow rapidly while still facing legal issues.

Himmelstein’s study (published on July 20th on PeerJ Preprints) found that Sci-Hub’s reach is even greater for research papers protected by a paywall (instant access is provided for 85 percent of all papers published in subscription journals). In a conversation with ScienceInsider, Himmelstein said that the results of the study could mark ‘the beginning of the end” for paywalled research.

When asked if librarians would ever endorse Sci-Hub over paying for journal access, Himmelstein said: “I don’t think librarians would ever endorse it, given the legal issues of instructing someone to do something illegal. But in a way they already do. There are many libraries nowadays that can’t provide 100% access to the scholarly literature.”

When asked if there was anything publishers could do to stop new papers from being added to Sci-Hub, he said: “There are things they could do but they can really backfire terribly. The issue is, the more protective the publishers are, the more difficult they make legitimate access, and that could drive people to use Sci-Hub.”

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.

When ebooks are ‘free’ through libraries for two weeks (like Harry Potter)

We learned last week that Pottermore will make J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ebook available to UK library users for two weeks in order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its publication. The ebook will be available through library distribution apps OverDrive, BorrowBox from Bolinda and Askews & Holts from June 26 until July 7. During that time, the U.K. library system (which signed an agreement with Pottermore) will offer unlimited number of loans to the first book in the massively popular series.

We also learned that Pottermore is supplying participating libraries with posters, flyers, social media materials and competition ideas to help them publicize the free loans (as they are called) and, in essence, help publicize the book and the series in digital format.

Those of us who have worked with ebook vendors and engaged publishers (big and small) to consider alternative ebook business models (for consumers and especially for libraries) have long been aware of the resistance on the part of established, traditional publishing houses to expose their content digitally in ways other than through the one copy-one user model.

So when a publisher such as Pottermore decides to provide a Harry Potter title in ebook format through a library in ‘unlimited’ ways (which means no restrictions are placed on how many readers can read at the same time during the two-week period, and only during that period), the first reaction is certainly one filled with hope that a new trend may be on the horizon showing signs that publishers hesitant to embrace less restrictive ebook models in libraries are embracing innovation by making some bold digital moves. What’s more, some are touting this move as a great way to ‘support’ public libraries in the U.K., which have been struggling.

The second reaction, however, is one of hesitation. Continue reading When ebooks are ‘free’ through libraries for two weeks (like Harry Potter)

Ten sites that give free access to quality ebooks librarians and publishers should know about [readers, too]

Since launching the Free Content Alerts column, which highlights sites and platforms where ebooks and econtent may be downloaded and read for free, we’ve brought to our readers’ attention 10 great sites to recommend to anyone looking for quality content online in digital format, particularly those unable to access quality ebooks through their local libraries, ranging from classics to professional literature and from popular fiction to scholarly monographs.

These are the ten sources highlighted thusfar on NSR.

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

Eserver.org, an alternative niche for free quality content (including ebooks) in the arts and humanities

Unglue.it, an ebooks site that functions like a true participatory democracy

Knowledge Unlatched, supported by libraries, and made available in pdf to any reader, anywhere in the world

Hathitrust Digital Library, a major source of open scholarship with legal issues seemingly behind it

Smashwords, where indie authors may price their books at ‘free,’ but ‘free’ isn’t the core mission

World Public Library, an impressive collection of free books and documents but a cumbersome registration process

Internet Archive, a nonprofit offering an overwhelming amount of free content (and triggering some copyright debates)

B-OK (formerly Bookzz), probably the world’s largest free ebook site with a minimally-invasive registration process

Project Gutenberg, public domain titles free to be read and re-distributed in the U.S. (but not necessarily throughout the world)

Europe Announces That All Scientific Papers Should Be Free by 2020

This week was a revolutionary week in the sciences – not because we discovered a new fundamental particle or had a new breakthrough in quantum computing – but because some of the most prominent world leaders announced an initiative which asserts that European scientific papers should be made freely available to all by 2020.

This would legally only impact research supported by public and public-private funds, which are a vast portion of the papers produced annually; however, the goal is to make all science freely available.

Read the rest of the story here.

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. Openculture.com 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’

Dutch startup Sweek—a free reading and writing platform—welcomes 100,000th user

From a Sweek press release:

Sweek, a platform for free reading and writing, has welcomed its 100,000th user last week, since the official launch at the Frankfurt Book Fair seven months ago. Meanwhile, readers and writers from over 100 countries are already using Sweek. Both aspiring and top authors have joined Sweek, and traditional publishers are starting to use Sweek as a talent-scouting platform. Continue reading Dutch startup Sweek—a free reading and writing platform—welcomes 100,000th user

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