On The Online Books Page, I list free books, definitive collections, and serials. Some people have asked me what goes in the index of individual titles, and what doesn't. Here's a brief summary of my criteria for inclusion:
A book is considered legitimately available if any one of these conditions holds:
I only index books that don't charge you to read them. Shareware fees are considered charges (they're simply enforced by the honor system). There's a list of companies that sell online books off my main page, if you're interested in books you have to pay for. At the moment, I'm also considering certain demands for access to one's personal information, emailboxes, or social media accounts to be "charges", if they're not actually necessary for getting or controlling access to the book, and there is no clear way to opt out of them.
Online books that are only available through a paid subscription service do not qualify for listing, even if there is no further charge for the book once you've subscribed, and even if there is a limited free trial period. (So, for instance, Kindle Unlimited offerings do not qualify for listing, since it costs money to be a Kindle Unlimited subscriber for more than a limited time.) Also, books that are only free for a limited time do not qualify for listing here, as we intend our listings to be persistent. (There are other sites that specialize in limited-time book deals.)
You're welcome to invite people to buy the print version on your site as well; I just require that the electronic version be readable without charge.
By "full text", I mean all the essential text of the book; if you read the online text, you'd feel as if you read the whole book. Introductions, appendices, and illustrations may be omitted in many cases. I won't index excerpts, or books that suddenly cut off in the middle with a note to send away for the final chapters.
Generally a book is "significant" if it's listed as a book in the online catalog of a major library such as the Library of Congress. This is a fairly easy test for most print books to pass, and a number of libraries also acquire and catalog selected electronic-only books. I've also listed a few electronic-only titles not in libraries, but these generally don't get listed unless they're shown to be particularly noteworthy in some sort of (formal or informal) 'peer review'. For example, I listed Travels with Samantha after it won a Best of the Net award in 1994. If you find an electronic-only title you consider worthy of inclusion, send me the URL and the reasons you think it should be listed.
I will also list definitive collections (such as "all the works of a particular author we can put online") if they seem to be actively maintained and contain at least one significant print book.
Finally, I also list significant runs of serials (magazines, newspapers, journals, etc.) under similar criteria to that described here for books. See this page for more information on what online serials I list.
A number of shorter (less than book-sized) texts can be found through the Internet Public Library or in the University of Virginia etext archives. Many unpublished electronic-only texts also appear in various archives and indexes that I link to.
I limit my curated collection to works in English and other European languages only because I don't have the time and expertise to do other languages. (My own selections are almost entirely in English; I can catalog other languages, sometimes with some help, if I can read the alphabets.) However, the extended shelves may include books in other languages. I also point to a number of archives and indexes for other languages from the top-level page. Let me know if there are other such sites I should include.
I will list significant books that are shorter than the 49 pages considered by some to be the lower limit of a "book", if they've been published on their own; however, very short texts (such as broadsides) will generally not be included even if some libraries catalog them as books. Some other types of works not usually listed here include
I try to link to the best sites for texts I can find. I will prefer fast, highly available sites over slow sites that are often down. I prefer sites that have straightforward URLs that don't change every few weeks. I prefer sites that have texts in portable, widely supported formats, such as HTML (this is the Web, after all), PDF (which now has a published specification and viewers from various sources) or plain vanilla text. Books in proprietary formats that do not have published specifications, and that can only be read on certain vendor's systems, generally aren't listed here unless they're not available in more open formats. (For example, Microsoft Reader or .lit format is a proprietary format as of this writing, so you won't see many MS Reader books listed unless they're only published online in that format, or Microsoft openly publishes its Reader format specification.) Books that are available only as executable files are generally not listed at all, for reasons of security as well as portability.
If there are more accurate sources of a text, or sources that have more useful text features, I'll prefer those to less accurate ones. Online editions which state their provenance (such as what print edition they're based on) are often more reliable than those that do not. I will also generally prefer sites that have few or no ads over sites that have aggressive or confusing advertising.
Note that I don't provide storage space for titles; just listings for them. If you have an online book you'd like to find a home for, I can help you find an archive that might be interested in carrying it.
I hope the index of titles is a useful service for the Net. If you find it useful, please let me know when you learn of new texts and sources that I haven't listed yet.
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Edited by John Mark Ockerbloom (email@example.com)
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