Your summer reading list just got more accessible, thanks to a project funded by the New York Public Library. Most books published in America before 1964 are in the public domain because the authors didn’t extend the copyright. And their aversion to paperwork is our gain, because many of these are available for free online, with more being added every day.
Here’s how it works: the Library of Congress has published the Catalog of Copyright Entries /including all the registration and renewal information on American books through the 1970s. The Internet Archive—a non-profit library of free materials—has digital versions of the lists by the Library of Congress, but someone still had to sort through all the records to figure out which books were in the public domain (and that’s changing constantly as copyrights expire).
And that’s where the heroes at the New York Public Library come in: in an absolutely massive project, they digitized each all the registration and copyright expiration information, so now it’s available via a digital search. To give you an idea of just how many books we’re talking about, around 80 percent of American books published between 1923 to 1964 are in the public domain.
How to access the books
These are the sites that has those books online:
They’re always adding new items to their catalog. Hope you can have a happy reading.