Friday, February 29, 2008

Former Random House Editor & Del.icio.ous Maven Create Free Online Book Service

Want a free copy of Moby Dick, Pride & Prejudice or The Prince and the Pauper? Those titles are available free online through a new service launched by a former editor of Random House and a former guru at, the "social bookmarking site." Classic titles are delivered via plain text emails in serialized installments. The service also includes a fee-based subscription for new titles, but books in the public domain are free and there are lots of them, including many titles on school reading lists.

Called DailyLit (, the service was recently launched by Susan Danziger, a former Random House editor and her husband Albert Wenger, who used to run The service was featured in the latest issue of Poets & Writers magazine (an excellent magazine). Readers can receive installments via "computers, cell phones and Blackberry handhelds and other tech devices," according to the article in P&W by Kevin Canfield. You pick the frequency of the emails. You can even opt to read far more than the daily portion.

This is how the service started, according to a statement on the DailyLit website.

"We got the idea for DailyLit after the New York Times serialized a few classic works in special supplements a few summers ago. We wound up reading books that we had always meant to simply by virtue of making them part of our daily routine of reading the newspaper. The only thing we do more consistenly than read the paper is read email. Bingo! We put together a first version and began reading "War of the Worlds" and "Pride and Prejudice". We showed it to friends, added more books and features at their request, and presto, DailyLit was born."

Here's how the service works, according to the FAQ section DailyLit:

"Why read books by email?

Because if you are like us, you spend hours each day reading email but don't find the time to read books. DailyLit brings books right into your inbox in convenient small messages that take less than 5 minutes to read. This works incredibly well not just on your computer but also on a Treo, Blackberry, Sidekick or whatever the PDA of your choice. In the words of Dr. Seuss: Try it, you might like it! (Oops -- it would appear that the actual quote from Green Eggs and Ham is "You do not like them. So you say. Try them! Try them! And you may.")

How long does it take to read a book?
That depends on three factors. First, on how many installments are in the book (shown when you browse for books). Second, on how frequently you choose to receive emails. Third, on how often you read more than one installment (by using the "send me the next installment immediately" feature). So here is a typical example. I am currently reading Dracula, which has 187 installments and I am receiving installments on weekdays, i.e. 5 days/week. So at most it will take me 187/5 = 37 weeks. But when I am on the train or waiting, I often read more than one installment, so I usually wind up reading about 10 installments/week. This means I will finish Dracula in about 19 weeks or 5 months. If that seems long to you, try something shorter!

Sounds great, how do I get started?
All you need to do is pick a book (browse the collection or use the search box), select how often and when you want to receive messages, and provide your email address. Click on the big Subscribe button. DailyLit does the rest.

How much does it cost?
Public domain books on DailyLit are free in their entirety. Most copyrighted books require payment after some number of free sample installments (some copyrighted books are free). The price for a book is displayed clearly on the book detail page. We encourage you to try out paid books -- you only pay if you like the free sample installments and want to continue reading."

source: FAQ for DailyLit

Here's a small sample of the extensive list of free titles:

Popular Titles (all free)

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Many Thoughts of Many Minds (Quotations)

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

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