I have been a fan of the openness of Web 2.0 — we’re listening to music, watching movies and TV shows, replaying Michael Phelps Olympics videos over and over again. All for free and open to anyone willing to put in the time and energy to click a few times. Everything I’ve read tells me it’s the open source decade, when licenses and copyrights will be a thing of the past. But the former journalist in me is skeptical.
This week, I wrote for another site about the Web 2.0 phenomenon of free books and free magazines online. The old-timer in this area is Project Gutenberg, with its 25,000 free books in its online book catalog. Also out there is the catalog of 30,000 books at the Online Books Page maintained by the University of Pennsylvania, Google Books, and Bibliomania, which has thousands of e-books, poems, articles, short stories and plays online, along with message boards about books and authors and lots of reference materials.
Keep in mind that all these forward-thinking sites are prohibited by copyright law from reproducing any books published after 1923, so they all contain classics. But there’s Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and a slew of other recognizable (albeit classic) authors whose works have outlived the copyright laws.
An even more controversial newcomer to the Web 2.0 world is Mygazines, a site that encourages its members to upload their copies of Life, Time, Playboy and many more magazines as PDFs, which are then converted into easily readable “flip book” versions of magazines that anyone can read for free online. This, of course, has sent the publishing world into a tailspin over copyright laws and I’ve read that attorneys are working overtime to shut the place down. But so far, it’s still out there, as you can see from my screenshot. I personally (former journalist that I am) love it.
For those of you who prefer to live within the confines of the law, Zinio offers a long-overdue service. By obviously partnering with the magazine industry, Zinio offers single-issue purchases of magazines online, providing you with immediate access to the issue you wanted to read and saving on paper by letting you read the entire thing online. Awesome. The corner newsstand on your laptop.