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Public domain

Ryk Spoor launches Kickstarter to fund new Oz novel
March 15, 2014 | 5:27 am

polychromeHere’s a worthy-looking Kickstarter project. Ryk Spoor, one of the Baen stable of authors, is looking to self-publish Polychrome, his modern-day pastiche on the public-domain Oz setting. He’s already offered it to multiple publishers, but none of them seems to have been able to figure out quite what to do with it. He hopes to raise at least $5,000 to cover the cost of having the book professionally edited, formatted, and polished up for self-publication. Of course, you can make the argument that he could just self-publish it as-is, for free; if it’s good enough for a zillion other...

Story Cards tablet CCG gamifies reading for K-12 students
March 12, 2014 | 2:58 pm

storycardsHere's an intriguing game I just learned about. Educational publisher Amplify, makers of the Amplify Android tablet we covered last year, has come up with a way to gamify classic literature, in the hopes of getting students interested in reading it. Story Cards is a turn-based character-driven CCG. Players unlock character cards with specific abilities by reading the books they come from, and can gain bonuses by answering trivia questions related to the books in question. The game supports both single-player and multi-player modes. Students can build their own decks and compete with the game or each other. The...

Wellcome Trust walks the walk on open access with images release
January 23, 2014 | 10:15 am

Already a poster child for open access in the UK scientific and medical communities, the Wellcome Trust has made another public commitment to free access to information with its announcement that: "Over 100 000 images, including manuscripts, paintings, etchings, early photography and advertisements, are being made freely available through Wellcome Images." [caption id="attachment_106014" align="aligncenter" width="426"] One of the Wellcome Images treasures: A fly leaf from the personal horoscope of Iskandar Sultan (died 1415), grandson of Tamerlane.[/caption] Given the source of the materials, of course, it's not surprise that most of these images have some connection to medicine or the sciences - but...

Shel Silverstein biographer’s fair use dilemma: Censorship at the sidewalk’s end
January 11, 2014 | 3:35 pm

On Slate, Joseph Thomas writes that the time and effort he has spent writing a biography of Shel Silverstein will likely come to naught because he cannot get permission from the Silverstein estate to quote from any of Silverstein’s material (probably because the biography covers Silverstein’s lesser-known adult work alongside his better-known children’s work, and the estate would prefer to preserve his kid-friendly image). And so I came up against the hard truth of the literary biographer: It’s crucial to establish friendly relations with the estates of deceased (and more rarely, living) artists whose work is...

The public domain hiatus continues
January 3, 2014 | 12:54 pm

atlasshruggedSo, another new year, and another collection of works that should have but won’t pass into the public domain thanks to Sonny Bono’s Copyright Term Extension Act. GigaOm has a good roundup of titles, drawing on the report from Duke University’s Center for the Study of the Public Domain. They include some fairly popular titles, such as the movies Bridge on the River Kwai, Gunfight at the OK Corral, and 3:10 to Yuma, and the books How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Cat in the Hat. One noteworthy title is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, which seems...

Sherlock Holmes is definitely in the public domain, judge rules
December 27, 2013 | 2:56 pm

It shouldn’t take a detective to realize that Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain by now, but apparently it takes a court to declare it. We’ve covered the matter a couple of times. The Conan Doyle estate trademarked Holmes in the hope that could prevent others from using him without paying a licensing fee. A couple of years ago, the New York Times pointed out that some of the rights to Holmes are in kind of a twisted tangle. But now a federal judge has issued a decision affirming that the characters and situations from all...

‘Steam in the Willows’ all smoke, no fire?
December 5, 2013 | 3:26 pm

steam-in-willowsRan across this Kickstarter project on GalleyCat. Australian writer Krista Brennan is raising money for “Steam in the Willows,” a “steampunk version” of the classic Kenneth Grahame novel The Wind in the Willows. It will be published in PDF, print, and (if a stretch goal is met) audiobook editions. Since the original book is in the public domain, people can of course publish or self-publish any version of it they like, and Brennan will be doing just that. Her project has successfully met its AU$6,600 goal (about US$5,985 at current exchange rates) with a week to go in the Kickstarter....

First all-digital public library system a hit in Bexar County, Texas—with hundreds of e-reader gizmos and an eager young crew to explain them
October 20, 2013 | 1:11 pm

bibliotechLast year LibraryCity.org knocked the library system in Rockford, Illinois, for planning to spend around a quarter of its $1.19-million collection budget on e-books. A third of Rockfordians were living below the poverty line in 2009 by one estimate. And yet the local library initially wanted to start out with just 50 Kindle e-readers---hardly the best solution for people too poor or technophobic to buy and use e-book devices. The local NAACP and other groups yelled foul, just as they should have. So what’s happening down in Bexar County, Texas? BiblioTech, the world’s first all-digital public library system, opened there September 14...

Marcel Proust’s birthday: A day to remember things past — for free
July 10, 2013 | 4:00 pm

Today, June 10th, marks the birth date of another great 20th-century modern novelist: Marcel Proust, author of the celebrated, and massive, work, "À la recherche du temps perdu" ("Remembrance of Things Past"). And luckily, by the same quirk of copyright that has left the work of Proust's only rival for the title of greatest modern novelist, James Joyce, in the public domain and up for grabs, not only is Proust available gratis in the original French, but the finest ever single translation of his work, which set the standard for all succeeding renditions into English, is also available online for free. Some...

New study: Copyright extension makes works unavailable; public domain lets them flourish
July 7, 2013 | 4:15 pm

Does copyright help keep works available, by giving the creators incentive to make sure it’s around to be purchased so they can get money? Or does it hinder keeping works available, since there’s only one source who can permit it and if they’re not interested nobody can compete with them? That’s the question law professor Paul J. Heald set out to test in a statistical study. Heald (and his research assistant) used random ISBNs to sample 7,000 books from Amazon and rank them by date of publication. Then he looked at how many books from each decade were available, to determine...

New children’s e-book program Nintendo’s first official foray into e-books, but far from first for the Game Boy
July 4, 2013 | 4:47 am

Happy Fourth, to those of our readership who observe it! Rocketnews has a comprehensive English-language report on some new Nintendo-related e-book news. Nintendo is launching an e-book program for its 3DS handhelds aimed at grade-school kids, with 300 Japanese children’s books available. Whereas Nintendo used to be the undisputed king of console and mobile gaming, and still does well in Japan, its numbers have been declining abroad as more and more kids turn to smartphones and tablets and the gaming possibilities they represent. Hence, it’s starting to explore new markets. On The Digital Reader, Nate Hoffelder mentions...

xkcd Trawls Public Domain to Show That the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same
June 19, 2013 | 2:32 pm

Fullscreen capture 6192013 10403 PM.bmpxkcd has a really great comic today, which touches obliquely on a number of aspects of modern digital life. Randall Munroe has dug back through various historical sources to find some terrific observations on how terrible everything is now and how much better it used to be…in print sources dating from 1871 to 1915. An awful lot of reading is involved to go through it, and I don’t like to think about how long it must have taken Randall to gather them all. Those following the kerfuffle about the quality of self-published books might find the quote I clipped to...