Monday, June 13, 2011

British Library Books Follow-up: Enhanced Versions on iPad with Option to Buy Printed Copies at Amazon

What happened on the British Library books?

The British Library announced in early February 2010 an Agreement with Amazon that "MORE than 65,000 19th-century works of fiction from the British Library’s collection are to be made available for free downloads by the public from this spring.  Details were given in a couple of blog articles here, Feb. 9 and Feb. 25. The essentials were:
' Making 19th century fiction available for free through the Kindle ebook reader opens up a new global readership for forgotten literary gems. Kindle users will be able to download, free of charge, 25m pages of digitised books, from noteworthy editions of well known authors like Dickens, Conan Doyle and Thomas Hardy to rare early 19th century fiction and even the UK’s best collection of ‘penny dreadfuls’. People who want their own copies can also have them despatched direct through Amazon’s print-on-demand service. Super Saver Delivery meets the gothic novel. '

The British Library's press release had said:
' Historic new deal by the British Library and Amazon to make 65,000 largely out-of-print 19th Century titles available on Amazon via CreateSpace's Print on-Demand service and as free downloads for Amazon Kindle owners.

Originally digitised in partnership with Microsoft Livesearch, the British Library’s new deal with Amazon will unlock 65,000 editions of 19th century philosophy, history, poetry and literature – over 25 million pages of content. Covering Amazon's sites in US, the UK, France and Germany, and Amazon's revolutionary wireless portable reading device Kindle, this landmark agreement will enable a whole new global generation of readers to rediscover countless forgotten literary gems.

Estimates suggest that roughly 35% to 40% of the British Library's 19th century British printed collections are either unique, or at least inaccessible through other major libraries in the UK and abroad. This deal is a prime example of how the British Library is continuing to explore new technologies and innovative business models to improve access to its historic collections '

BUT SPRING 2010 PASSED ... and that was the last that was ever heard about it
Until today.

  I had wondered how they would show these as they were, on a text Kindle, and one has to wonder if Amazon thought it would have a tablet out eventually in time for these, though we are talking 2010.

The Apple iPad will get some of these first.  AOL's reports today that ITunes has a free app called "British Library 19th Century Collection."
' This application provides access to titles from the British Library’s 19th century book collection. It includes classic novels, works of philosophy, history and science.  Browse, search and read these historic books on a platform that enhances the reading experience.  These digital book images have been captured in color to preserve the look of the original book.  Marbled papers, embossed covers, engraved illustrations maps, and beautifully colored plates are intact and help create a unique reading environment.


• Search the collection
• Browse titles by subject
• Read commentary on selected titles
• View images of original maps
• See author inscriptions and margin notes
• Create favorite title lists
• Download books for offline reading

Visit: to see sample curated content.

For a rich experience of 100 key British Library collection items from all eras download our companion 'Treasures' app, also available in the App Store '

So far, only 33 have downloaded it, but I first saw this about 4 hours ago and just started writing and went there to check.  There are 3 comments so far, pointing out that this app not only has the usual color but also includes the original "foldouts."

Another commenter writes a good description with caveats:
' By Beachesboy

I discovered this today and I am delighted with the full colour presentation of these gems of yesteryear.  It's almost like having the work in your hands.
Some caveats, however:

1. You cannot rotate the book on the iPad.  It can only be read in portrait mode. I find this physically uncomfortable, preferring reading in landscape mode.   This may be necessary in order to make the display match the book, since it's a reproduction and reformatting to accommodate landscape viewing might destroy the illusion.

2. The only search function lets you search for titles.  Once reading text, there is no searching.

Unlike some other similar apps, there is no highlighting words to kick off a dictionary or thesaurus.

4. There is no way to copy text. There was a section of a poem I would have liked to copy and email a friend. Impossible.

You can squeeze to shrink or expand text; very useful for illustrations, maps, etc.

AOL'S TUAW REPORT - and Amazon
AOL's reports on what is planned, both for the iPad and for Amazon and the Kindle.
' The British Library has released 1000 books [from the 65,000] from its 19th Century collection into a free iPad app that includes novels, historical works, poetry, philosophy and scientific books.

The books have been scanned in high resolution and color so you can see the engraved illustrations, the beauty of the embossed covers, along with maps and even the texture of the paper the books were printed on.

You can search the collection, browse titles by subject, and even read commentary on some of the titles. The books can be downloaded for reading offline. '

They have color illustrations of this and you click them to go to another page that has a slide-selection of them that you can click through.  After describing a bit more, Tuaw adds:
' Although the app is free, the British Library plans to charge for an enhanced version of 60,000 titles later this year. Many of the books have an option to buy, and when you click you are sent to Amazon to purchase a printed copy. The app is iPad only for now, but will be coming to the Kindle Reader and Android tablets in the future... '

So, where do the originally described 65,000 "free" Kindle books come in?  Will they ever go through with that?  Will the ~64,000 others actually be in TEXT-ONLY format for "Kindle readers," free, but in "enhanced versions" for a future Amazon tablet as well as for iPad and Android tablets?

Amazon will need to have a PR statement on this, since the current offering of enhanced books from The British Library involves an option to purchase printed versions at Amazon.

For daily free ebooks, check the following links:  (Also, Low-priced Sunshine Deals through 6/15)
Temporarily-free books -
- USA: by:
NEW:  Apr  May  June 2011
   Publication Date   Late-listed
   Bestselling   High-ratings

UK: PubDate   Popular
What is 3G? and "WiFi"?
Highly-rated e-books under $1
Most Popular Free K-Books
U.S. & Int'l (NOT UK):
   Top 100 free
   Top 100 free
USEFUL for your Kindle (U.S. only, currently):
  99c Notepad,   99c Calculator,
  99c CalendarPro,   99c Converter

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's)   K3 Special ($114)   K3-3G Special ($164)   DX Graphite

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  1. Only available in the US App store! Thanks for nothing British Library. I think it is appalling that a British collection should not be available here in the Britain first.

  2. Anonymous,
    That IS bizarre. I thought iPad could sell in some countries by now, but maybe not apps? Still bizarre.

    Thanks for that info. It never occurred to me.

  3. iPad only? or iPhone & iPod touch, too?

    and - it seems completely insane that the app wouldn't be at least *concurrently* available in the uk, australia, n.z., canada etc. someone @BL obviously wasn't thinking very clearly.

  4. Anonymous,
    The iTunes page I link to and the tuaw article linked to both mention only the iPad. They're probably too small to read on the smaller devices as they show the layout of normal sized books just as they appear in their much larger size, unlike what is done with most e-books, which just re-flow the text.

    As for as digital rights elsewhere, I've no idea what is behind all that.

  5. goodness, I'm googling all over and can't find the info. have they released for kindle yet and how do we download them? I'm sending myself bonkers.


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