Say No to Twilight, Say Yes to (free) classics!

Instead of reading mediocre to bad fiction in your spare time, how about some classics? For free?

I might be defining my opinion about Twilight by this entry, but, really, what happened to reading good literature? After leaving high school where many of us had required reading, how many continue to pay tribute to the oldies (English majors not included)? There are plenty of classics in similar genres to what is available today.

Many classics have been freely available for while, since works enter the public domain after copyright expires. Project Gutenberg has been making available public domain books since 1971 and is the largest collection of free ebooks around. It is a pretty huge collection, and a great source of reading material especially if you own an ebook reader.

Something new on the rise, however, is Read Print, which is a website that also puts out books, but in more modern Web format complete with Facebook, Twitter, and extensive chat capabilities (Meebo, Facebook, AIM, MySpace IM, Google Talk). It was recently named one of TIME’s 50 best websites. I would still use Gutenberg for getting ebooks to read on my Sony Reader, but being able to read online is an attractive function of Read Print.

It would be interesting to try to have a virtual book club meeting through Read Print. It would be quite easy to communicate and the readers would not have to be worried about buying the same edition of a book to keep track of page numbers. It would be possible to even try to schedule our reading sessions to be synchronous so that we can chat as we read. That might be more distracting than helpful, but it would more closely emulate watching a TV show or a movie together.

Check out the Read Print collection. You can browse for books by title or by author, here are a few:

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4 Responses

  1. Leah says

    Thanks Chewy! I’ve never heard of either of these e-book sites but I’ll def. make use of them now.

  2. chewbear says

    @Nat
    I don’t think chatting while reading will work that well either, but I think it is worth a try, at least once. Maybe it would be cool if they had a spin-off website that was a forum or connected to Twitter so you could tweet as you read or something.

    @Sara
    I’m partly joking about the Twilight stuff. ;-) I know everyone has their guilty pleasure, though Meyer’s writing is intensely frustrating to me. What I also don’t get, though, is the strange addictive obsession that has come with Twilight that doesn’t seem to exist for other books. Particularly, the fans attachment to the characters seems to surpass an amount that might count as healthy. I have heard some crazy stories about fanatical, violent girls!

  3. Sara says

    Nice site recommendation! Can’t wait to check it out. :)

    Don’t dispair too much about popular reading taste, however! The people I know who read books (as opposed to just periodicals) often read a mixture of popular fiction and heavy classics. All my bookish friends have a guilty pleasure, as much as they worship real literature.

    Or, maybe I just hang out with intellectual snobs with addictive tendencies. haha.

  4. Nat says

    Wow, Read Print is a really well-done website.

    I love free, out-of-copyright books, and have downloaded dozens to my phone and Kindle. (I particularly like Mark Twain and Jules Verne.)

    I don’t think chatting while I read would really work. I read at a different rate than other people, and when I’m reading the visual part of my brain is absorbed in the book, so chatting would definitely take me out of the story. (If I was simultaneously listening to an audio book with other people, though, it might work to text chat at the same time.)

    Organizing a book club through the site might be a very cool idea.