Free ebooks and video, first day

Yesterday was my first full day of consuming only free media, Its a day and a half since I started. So how is it going?

As I said before, it is books that matter most to me. There is plenty out there that is free to download, most, but not all, out of copyright. I also found time to watch one (more) episode of a creative commons licensed video series.

The first book I started reading was a collection of short stories by Henry James. It was a disappointment. I found the characters in two consecutive stories pompous and silly and lost interest in them. At least I had the convenience of trying the book without having to look at in a bookshop, or buying a copy.

I then decided on some light reading, The Wizard of Karres by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint and Dave Freer, all authors who have written something I have enjoyed in the past. It was light and mildly amusing, but not wonderful. It was also a sequel to a book that I have not read, so I may not have enjoyed it as much as I could have.

The best book so far is Tono Bungay by HG Wells. Like much of Wells’ non science fiction works it seems to have been nearly forgotten. The style is a little rambling by modern standards, but it is both an enjoyable read and a satire of business and capitalism that is as relevant today as it was when it was written.

It is an interesting contrast with two of the books that lead me to try this experiment, both by GK Chesterton. The first was Tales of the Longbow (the link is to an pdb format version, you can convert it using something like Calibre). It is much funnier (laugh out loud funny) and the satire is more effective. The Man Who Knew Too Much is more sombre and does not work quite as well for me.

In both books Chesterton is more enjoyable than Wells, and he has a clearer, if nostalgic, vision. In particular, Wells (or, at least, his narrator) despises rural farmers and the idea of a peasantry, whereas Chesterton admires the independence they enjoy compared to industrial workers, but Wells’ actual descriptions of the life of the urban workers is one of dreariness and drudgery.

The reason Chesterton’s books lead to this experiment, is that they are books I would never have found unless I had been specifically looking for free ebooks, and Tales of the Longbow is one of the best books of one of my favourite authors, but I had never read it because I had never come across while browsing in a bookshop (online or bricks and mortar). How many more treasures are lurking out there, unmarketable and therefore almost unheard of because they are now free and, therefore, unprofitable?

Because I spend less time watching video, that side of the experiment is going more slowly. Last night I watched the fourth episode of Pioneer One which I downloaded from Vodo. It has a great plot and is generally well made, but the acting is uneven and not always very convincing. Worth watching, but not brilliant. If I had not already watched most of it I would have been better of starting with The Yes Men Fix the World.

2 thoughts on “Free ebooks and video, first day

  1. I’m looking forward to the next phase of your experiment were money and rights management are no object! Could be expensive, but I wonder how similar the books and videos you’d read/watch would be?

  2. The problem is that it would involve either spending a lot, or pirating more stuff than I even know how to. It would be a few hundred quid just to buy all the books on my wishlist!

    I think that there would initially be a huge difference between “money no object” and “free only”, but it would diminish over time.

    How much it would diminish would depend partly on how much effort I expend to find free stuff. Things you pay for are drawn to your attention by marketing (when did you last see an out of copyright book at the front of a bookshop?).

    Something similar happens with music: what is in the charts is new releases that get marketing spend, PR spend, and payola.

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