Amazon charges Kindle users for free public-domain eBooks

A report in Tuesday’s Washington Post reveals that Amazon is apparently selling free public-domain eBooks that have had their license information stripped. The eBooks in question originate from Project Gutenberg and are available there for free in a variety of formats including ePub, HTML and Kindle. Project Gutenberg — not to be confused with 80s legend Steve Guttenberg — was founded by eBook inventor Michael Hart and is known as the first generally available collection of free eBooks. It is also maintained by volunteers who are not paid for their services. Amazon’s alleged practice of selling rebranded Gutenberg eBooks is not illegal — in fact it doesn’t even violate Project Gutenberg’s license terms. It is, however, unethical at best and very disturbing at worst. In response to inquiries, an Amazon spokeswoman told the Post, “These books were uploaded by a third party using our self-service platform. I’ve sent your note to the appropriate team internally.” Amazon did not state that the Gutenberg eBooks would be removed from its Kindle store, nor did it condemn the practice of selling reformatted versions of free public-domain eBook files.

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