World eBook Fair logoLast week Catherine Hodge at DPP Store wrote an informative blog article reporting on the ongoing World eBook Fair (WeBF), where almost 1/3 million e-books are free to download between July 4 and August 4.

WeBF is jointly sponsored by Project Gutenberg, World eBook Library, DPP Store, Baen Books, and QOOP.

According to Catherine, server statistics indicate that over 12 million free e-books have been downloaded so far (as of July 20th).

It is perplexing to me as to why there’s not been more discussion about WeBF in the various e-book-related forums, such as the eBook Community (which I moderate) and even the Gutenberg mailing lists. Not even the inevitable criticisms. Catherine noted this as well:

Interestingly, the mainstream media has picked up the story here and there — it was out on the AP wire before the event began. However, the list serves and newsgroups that discuss eBooks have almost entirely missed the fact that millions of eBooks are being disseminated across the world. There has been little or no discussion of this exciting event in the very groups that are dedicated to discussing all things eBook. I hope to see this change in the near future.

So what are your thoughts on the World eBook Fair and the lack of public discussion about it? And did you take advantage of the opportunity to download a lot of free e-books? The comments area is open! Do share your thoughts.


  1. Hi,

    Maybe it is because those books were in pdf format which is such an awkward format (slow and inflexible) for reading as opposed to printing out. I checked out the site but I did not find any book of sufficient interest to me there not available somewhere else in a better format like rtf or html or even mslit.


  2. My personal take on why the only discussions about the World eBook Fair in the ebook lists seem to have been generated by you (Jon Noring) are:

    They’re PDFs mostly created from various freely downloadable sources (whatever happened to Michael Hart’s preference for plain text?), and outside of Adobe and printers, PDF is not a greatly loved format.

    The 330 thousand ebook list greatly exaggerated due to duplication (search for any book in Project Gutenberg, for example, and you’ll probably find at least 3 copies at WeBF).

    Michael Hart has been travelling since about the time the WeBF launched, and hasn’t been trying to promote it. When he was promoting it at the end of June, it was mostly exaggerated claims about the WeBF portfolio, attacks on Google, and unbelievable extrapolations for the future.

    What’s the monthly download rate for Project Gutenberg at its primary site? Is it higher or lower than 24 million books a month?

  3. My history with the fair: I saw the announcements, and visited the site. But alas the publicity came out before the faire was open for business. When July 4 rolled around, without any grand hoopla, I’d already forgotten about it.

    That’s too bad. Michael Hart must be on vacation.

    So, reading this post, I hopped over to the site, and found it very hard to navigate. With so many, many books, how do I find one I want? It’s like a library … but you walk in through the doors and find only the card catalogue. You can look through the cardfiles only.

    So, if you know what book you want, and if this book is in their stacks, you will have no problem (unless you want a foreign book in translation, whose title is variously translated). Whenever I’ve pulled a book from Gutenberg directly, I knew the book I wanted to read, wondered, “Does Gutenberg have this?” and looked up by title or author.

    I’m actually surprised so many books have been downloaded. Maybe others know tricks I don’t.

    So, navigation is a problem for all such sites. But for the fair specifically, it would have been a great idea to get posters sent out to all public libraries. Kids are out of school, many have summer reading lists to tackle, and many books on summer reading lists are public domain which might well be on Gutenberg; copyrighted books might have been on the fair site, and it would have been a great boon for cash-strapped parents, copy-starved libraries, and ebooks in general.

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