Last week, Amazon informed us that for ten dollars per month, Kindle users can have unlimited access to over six hundred thousand books in its library. But it shouldn’t cost a thing to borrow a book, Amazon, you foul, horrible, profiteering enemies of civilization.
For a monthly cost of zero dollars, it is possible to read six million e-texts at the Open Library, right now. On a Kindle, or any other tablet or screen thing. You can borrow up to five titles for two weeks at no cost, and read them in-browser or in any of several other formats (not all titles are supported in all formats, but most offer at least a couple): PDF, .mobi, Kindle or ePub (you’ll need to download the Bluefire Reader — for free — in order to read ePub format on Kindle.) I currently have on loan Alan Moore’s Watchmen, Original Sin by P.D. James, and The Dead Zone by Stephen King.
Perhaps you would prefer to download books onto your Kindle, and keep them there permanently. In that case, please hie yourself over to Project Gutenberg, which has been offering free public domain e-texts since 1971. There, you may download any of over forty-five thousand books onto your Kindle. Or one of thousands of Librivox audiobook recordings made by volunteers, all in the public domain. (R.I.P. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg and one of the Internet’s greatest benefactors.)
You can do anything you like with the public domain books and recordings you download from Project Gutenberg or the Internet Archive: Make a literary Girl Talk-type mashup with them, hide Satanic messages in there via “backmasking,” make letterpress reprints of the books and illuminate them by hand with gold leaf like a medieval monk and sell the results on Etsy. It’s all free and legal. That is what “public domain” means. (By the bye, I wrote to the PR contact supplied by Amazon in the subject press release, and asked how many of these six hundred thousand titles offered through Kindle Unlimited are in the public domain and therefore, already free to the public, but did not receive an answer.)
Are you interested in borrowing the most recent titles? Perhaps you belong to a public library. I live in Los Angeles, and am a grateful and loyal patron of the Los Angeles Public Library, and of all the lucky things in this world, I live about ten minutes’ drive away from our gloriously beautiful and fantastic main library downtown. But maybe I don’t feel like driving ten minutes — in which case I can use my Kindle to check out e-books from the library, zillions of them. There are all different e-book programs, such as OverDrive, and countless recent popular books to check out, including Insurgent, which is the sequel to that daft Divergent book. (I saw the movie on the plane, I don’t know! I can’t help myself.)