British Library to offer 65,000 free e-books

Out-of-copyright classics from Dickens, Austen and the like will soon be available to download free of charge in a Microsoft-funded venture.


The British Library is to make thousands of classic 19th century works available as e-books completely free of charge.

In a joint venture with Microsoft, some 65,000 works will be offered as free downloads in the spring, with authors including the likes of Charles Dickens, Jules Verne and Jane Austen.

The titles, all officially out of copyright, will be available as special digital "first editions", complete with the original typeface and illustrations, and will significantly bolster the Library's e-book catalogue.

Besides well-known 19th century literature, the selection will also include so-called "penny dreadfuls", such as JM Rymer's The Dark Woman and Black Bess by Edward Viles. Around 40 per cent of the titles on offer aren't available in any other library.

Alongside the digital titles, supporting paperback editions of many of the works will go on sale through Amazon for around 15 apiece, also featuring the original typeface and illustrations.

The announcement marks the end of a three-year process of scanning in the titles, a project funded by Microsoft. The 19th century literature was specifically chosen because it is out of copyright so can be copied freely.

With the British Library officially holding at least one copy of every work of literature released in the UK, it claims that 35 to 40 per cent of its 19th century titles aren't held by any other library.

"Freeing historic books from the shelves has the potential to revolutionise access to the world's greatest library resources," said Lynne Brindley, the library's chief executive, told the Telegraph.

Featured Resources

Security analytics for your multi-cloud deployments

IBM Security QRadar SIEM solution brief

Download now

Five reasons to move to the cloud

Join the enterprises moving their workloads to the cloud

Download now

Architecting hybrid IT and edge for digital advantage

Why business leaders should consider a hybrid IT strategy

Download now

Six reasons to accelerate remote asset monitoring with AI

How to optimise resources, increase productivity, and grow profit margins with AI

Download now

Most Popular

How to build a CMS with React and Google Sheets
content management system (CMS)

How to build a CMS with React and Google Sheets

24 Feb 2021
Npower shuts down app after hackers steal user data

Npower shuts down app after hackers steal user data

25 Feb 2021
New monitors for an agile new normal

New monitors for an agile new normal

19 Feb 2021