I am in a book curmudgeon mood this year. It seems that whenever I check the new releases at the library, it’s a glut of 400 books that all look the same to me, so I am finding myself drawn to the good old days—and by old, I mean classic! There is just so much great public domain stuff these days, and there is a growing niche of book packagers who are taking it and doing some cool things. The Masters of Art series by Delphi Classics is one such example.
Each book in the series focuses on a famous artist. It includes full-colour photos of their major works, explanatory material and bonus content such as biographies when available. The books range from $1.99-2.99 and can often be had for a bit less with a coupon. This series is in Kindle format (other offerings come in epub flavour too) but are DRM-free and so can be easily converted.
The Leonardo Da Vinci book is typical of what you will find in the series. It has all the paintings, the drawings, notebooks and selected criticism. Each painting is preceded by a brief explanatory note (although it is not indicated in the text itself, these appear to be taken from Wikipedia) and then a high-quality graphic. I tested it on both my Kindle and my Kindle for iPad app—it works on the e-ink Kindle and looks on par with a black and white photo, but of course, in colour it’s prettier. You can pinch on the iPad to zoom in, and some paintings also have a second photo that is a close-up of an especially detailed or interesting part. You can pinch and zoom on those too.
Art is one subject in which my formal education is lacking, so I am enjoying broadening my horizons in this area. And this company has some other interesting offerings too—they sell omnibus ‘Complete Works’ of various authors which are excellent, and they have occasional thematic freebies such as ‘Masters of Theatre’ or ‘Masters of the Short Story.’ They also have complete works collections available in languages other than English—I am eying the French edition of Zola right now!
Overall, I am very pleased with the Masters of Art series and will definitely buy more of them as they come out. I also have found the customer service at Delphi Classics to be excellent. They frequently update with new content and error corrections (email notification for this would be nice—it’s currently just listed on an update page) and when I had a problem getting an update to a title I purchased at Amazon before I found their website, they simply emailed me a copy of the ebook file. I have since emailed them several times with minor questions, and they have responded promptly and politely every time.
I think there is definitely space in the marketplace for this kind of business. Yes, if I wanted to, I could go on Wikipedia and Google Images and Project Gutenberg and get all of this myself for free. But that is a lot of work, especially if the collection is about something you don’t know much about already. For $2-3, to have them do it for me? I am happy to pay the reasonable amount they are asking, and I bet I am not the only one.