Walter Scott Collected Works PergamonMediaRegular Amazon Kindle users will probably have come across by now the kind of “Collected Works” single-volume e-editions of great writers now in the public domain. PergamonMedia, one typical producer of these, charges $1.11 per volume for works such as The Collected Works of Sir Walter Scott: The Complete Works, or The Collected Works of H. G. Wells: The Complete Works. PergamonMedia is hardly the only player in this field, though, and some charge double this price or more.

Basically, you’re paying (modestly) for convenience and (hopefully) for some editorial clean-up. Are you actually getting anything more? In some cases, yes. Earlier Project Gutenberg digital editions, for instance, often miss a proper hyperlinked table of contents: these “Collected Works” volumes generally add them. Convenience can be relative, though, depending on your e-reading device: In the case of the Walter Scott edition mentioned above, we’re talking 41,600 virtual pages and a 33631kb file size. That may be an issue with some devices, though so far I haven’t had any problems with any of mine. And the tables of contents themselves may be a drag to scroll through. Time and again I’ve found myself bounced halfway through a large volume by hitting a chapter by accident in the ToC. And some readers may simply only want one work, and not care about the rest.

One other consideration to bear in mind is that other enthusiasts out there may have already put together a “Collected Works” edition for free. This may not always have the editorial or presentational standards of the paid editions, but they are free – in keeping with the principle of public domain. MobileRead is one good hunting ground for these, but by no means the only one. The Arkham Archivist’s free Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft, for example, is a boon for Lovecraft fans.

Personally, I won’t be using these, but I have no special issues with the principle of people monetizing the public domain for what amounts to chump change. And I no longer have individual works by H.P. Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith in my digital library since I found the collected editions of these. So what’s your preference, TeleRead readers? Would you pay for “Collected Works” of public domain authors? Do you? Interested to hear.


  1. Actually, I think the greatest error of the public domain works is the early plain vanilla texts of many classics. In many cases the italic text of the original is rendered as regular text, sometimes as all capitals. A few favorites like Shelock Homles stories have been cleaned up. Henry James, not so much.

    So far as I can tell, the bundles for sale don’t fix these errors.

  2. I had some of these and found a few typos in most of them. I think for me, the issue is that my OCD side likes to check off a book as ‘done’ and these collections make that difficult. I would rather just read the book I want and not have a whole omnibus sitting there which I feel obliged to read through.

  3. I have a few of them. They’re convenient and some of them have been reasonably cleaned up. Others not. Reviews are usually on top of that. Since I’m a browser by nature both of books and omnibus volumes they suit me. Very fond of my complete Dickens and Mark Twain volumes.

  4. I have purchased some out of copyright works which were not at Gutenberg, but were at the Internet Archive. Gutenberg EPUB has been proofread- not so for Internet Archive EPUB. It was well worth the $1/volume charge to purchase a multi-volume set.

  5. I do note that PermamonMedia have 11 of their productions as freebies at present.

    I snaffled Rudyard Kipling before it vanished and Sir Walter Scott is still free.

    The clickable TOC could be improved – better to be two level so you don’t have to page through at one line per chapter for the novels.

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