Monday, March 12, 2012

Searching for "Free" eBooks - The Giver



Ever wish you had access to free ebooks of your favorite titles? The feeling is no less so in schools where teachers wish they could give out copies of books to students. In my day, I remember wishing for a class set of Slave Dancer, scouring the used book stores and snapping up every copy I could find. In the end, I decided to get a few copies of multiple book titles and encourage different groups to read the book assigned to their group. And, of course, I also encouraged a LOT of sustained silent reading (SSR) with varied fiction and non-fiction titles I could afford in my "personal library" that I kept at work.

Now, of course, with an eReader, you can make hundreds of quality tales available at no charge to students. Provided each student has an eReader, a laptop/netbook, iPad, iPodTouch, iPhone or Android phone, accessible content has never been so...available. For example, some of my favorite sites for finding out of copyright or public domain titles include the following:
  1. ManyBooks.net - I remember spending quite a bit of time downloading many awesome titles from this site. For example, consider the amount of books Edgar Rice Burroughs has appearing in their collection. "Did you like John Carter of Mars, the film? If so, why don't you read some of the books Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote!"
  2. Smashwords.com - This site has free content, but also features books you can buy without Digital Rights Management (copy protection). I like that fact and you can read more about it in their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section.
  3. Baen Free Library - A great source of awesome sci-fi and fantasy books available legally for free. I've read some of these in paperback, hardback, but they are available with no DRM LEGALLY.
  4. Here's my list of free ebook sources
While there are many other sources of books, there are also some that you should watch out for. In one communication--which I've quoted at the bottom of this blog entry in its entirety with the relevant section highlighted--from a teacher to her students via the parents, I recall reading the following: 
"If your child has not completed the novel, this long weekend ahead of us is a great time for your child to finish the book. If your child does not have a copy of the novel yet, you can find an online copy of the novel if you wish to check that out."  (Source: Email from Child's Middle School Teacher, [emphasis mine])
Should we "check out" online copies of Lois Lowry's The Giver? At the time, I didn't pay much attention to the email...one of those emails you comply with because you find out at the last minute. I quickly found a copy of The Giver online for free, and encouraged my son to read it online while we searched Half-Price Bookstores for a copy (we failed to find one). Eventually, I ended up at Barnes and Noble Booksellers to purchase a copy of the paperback, a book my son was to use for about a week or two before moving on to something else. Of course, this was before my son had a Kindle when we could have ordered it and he would have had it immediately. It's also possible that the teacher meant a copy was available via the Library as an ebook, but surely, she would have included that detail (e.g. "You can find an online copy available through OverDrive in your Public Library," right? )

What is ironic is that the book IS available for free, but in violation of copyright notices. For example, consider this link to The Giver in a Minnesota school district (Hey, Doug Johnson, what are your thoughts on that?):

  • N Chalmers at Southwest Middle School in MN

Again, a simple Google search will yield results. Should teachers be recommending reading copyrighted books that are pirated? Should parents be MORE aware?

In that experience, I had not questioned the fact that The Giver was available for online reading...it was, I thought, like many other books the authors have chosen to make available for free...a sample copy to entice readers to read more of the author's work, an approach I find worthy of praise (e.g. Jonathan Mueller's work is one example, although there are others).

It wasn't until an exchange on an email list where I mentioned the fact that The Giver was available for free, and someone questioned me that I re-examined the issue...could I be wrong to point out that The Giver was online for free, as that teacher had done? After a bit of googling, I realized that, YES, I WAS WRONG. The Giver isn't available for free. The copy that's available isn't free and the copy was not made available.

But how could this be? Sites like ePubBud and OnRead appear to have been appropriated for ILLEGAL purposes, though they appear as legitimate as ManyBooks.net (which gets it's copy from Project Gutenberg).

In the case of The Giver, it appears that the links to ePubBud and Onread.com are questionable. Both sites--after googling--are considered illegal sources of ebooks.
You can easily find free copies of The Giver for download or online reading via ePubBud.com. If you check this link, it's amazing that NO ONE has challenged the ability of ePubBud to make copyrighted titles available for download. When you click your way through to The Giver, you can easily see that Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games (all 3 books!) are available for download, too. There is NO way that can be legal. Why aren't sites like ePubBud.com and OnRead.com shut down?

Consider this point made by an alleged author in the ePubBud forums:
It is illegal, and beyond that, it's immoral. I am an author. My work is being posted here illegally, and I have reported it both to epubed and to my publisher's legal department. 
First of all, illegal uploads and downloads are NOT like borrowing a book from the library, because libraries don't make copies of books. When you upload an ebook illegally, you're actually making a copy of it, and you retain a copy of it for yourself. And EVERY SINGLE PERSON who downloads it now owns a separate copy, for which neither the author nor the publisher were paid. It's theft, plain and simple. Lending a book is different, because you're not replicating it. You're lending a SINGLE copy someone actually paid for. Therre is a WORLD of difference between that and what you all are doing. 
Second of all, libraries don't steal from authors. They buy THOUSANDS of legal copies (both print and ebooks) every single year, and when the copies wear out, they replace them. And they pay for the replacement copies. Libraries are legitimate sales, and they're the place you should be going if you can't afford all the books you want to read. 
Third of all, we authors DO know you're stealing from us. You thieves aren't the only ones online, you know. We have Google Alerts, and I see every single time someone illegally uploads a copy of one of my books. 
Fourth, I can't believe the nerve you have, claiming that you're helping authors by recommending the books you've stolen. Why would one of your friends pay for a book you recommend, when they know they can get them for free from you? What youu're actually doing is perpetuating theft, and crippling the publishing industry.

I thought I'd explore this point here and see what others thought of it. If you're teaching a book like The Giver, I encourage you to reconsider your advice to students that the book is "online for free." 

ORIGINAL EMAIL FROM TEACHER
BTW, here's the original email from the pre-Advanced Placement teacher encouraging students/parents to find The Giver online--note the yellow highlighted section--for free reading:

Dear Pre AP Parents,
Welcome to the 2011- 2012 school year! I hope you all had a great summer. My name is [removed], and I have the wonderful privilege of teaching your child for Pre AP English. Now, I know you have been inundated with the first week’s crazy shuffle of paperwork, so I always like to time my welcome back e-mail after all that paperwork has come to a slow trickle.
As you know, each year brings about new routines and exciting changes; they are inevitably part of the equation. With that being said, I do hope everyone is securely buckled because we are going on an amazing ride! It's going to be an amazing year. 
There are some points that I wanted to make sure that you are all aware of so that we can create a strong partnership in facilitating your child’s education.
  • Let’s touch base on The Giver, which was a required reading for all incoming 7th grade Pre-AP English students. Now, I understand that some students did not get the memo regarding the mandatory reading assignment, which is unfortunate. However, the good news is that I have been flexible regarding the completion of this assignment. I also understand that some student didn’t get the information because they were at another school last year. All this is perfectly fine- not to worry. I have been talking to my students about the “wiggle room” that I am giving them, and they all appear to be pushing and working through this quite well.
  • For the last few days, my students have talked about themes present in The Giver. Finished or not, the work we did withthe themes in The Giver was global enough that all students were able to participate. Currently, my students are working on completing a book review for the novel. The students who haven’t finished reading were allowed to read today, and they will be allowed to read again tomorrow during my class. The students who already read the book are working on their review.
  • If your child has not completed the novel, this long weekend ahead of us is a great time for your child to finish the book. If your child does not have a copy of the novel yet, you can find an online copy of the novel if you wish to check that out. Some of my students are borrowing books from other students, so they are problem solving like crazy! (If you would like the online link to the book, please let me know.)
  • Come Monday, everyone should be ready to discuss The Giver.  We will be talking about the mini-project as well asthe assessment over the novel, which will be in the form of a composition. I will keep you posted on this.
CLASS INFORMATION
  • Each day, your child is expected to copy the daily agenda. It is posted on my screen. At this point, we are not selling agendas like we have in the past, so it is crucial for your child to have something to keep track of these daily agendas. During the first few days of school, I made some suggestions regarding an agenda book. A spiral, small calendar, or even a folder filled with paper will suffice. Your child just needs some place to write daily activities, due dates, and any homework that needs to be completed before the next school day.
Each day, your child will complete either a short warm-up, which consists of a mini lesson or a journal entry, which consists of reflective writing over a prompt, quote, or image.
For example, the other day I extracted a sentence from The Giver, and we examined the use of the semicolon in a compound sentence.  That was our mini lesson for the day.

  • My students have divided up their composition books into three sections:  (a) “Flip Side” for warm-ups, (b) Word Bank – middle section used to build vocabulary, and (c) “Front Side for extended writing. Your child is required to bring this composition book to class each day. They will not be stored in my classroom.
* Side Note #1 - Just so you know, I would like your child to decorate the front and back side of this composition book. It's been my experience that when they are decorated, children are less likely to forget it in their locker. Plus, it gives them an opportunity to showcase what interests them, which I love.
*Side Note #2- By Monday, if your child does not have a composition book or agenda, I will be contacting you just to let you know.  I do have a few composition books for .10 if you would like your child to purchase one from me.
* Side Note #2- Writing Portfolio Folder- Please ask your child about this.  Only a few students have turned in a folder. Students use this folder to keep writing resources, their major writing assignments, and “Work-in-Progress” pieces.
 

  • My web page is a valuable resource for all students and parents.  In the event of an absence, students can look up daily warm-up or journal prompt and complete it before the next class day. 
  •  I also like to keep my page updated with news about upcoming tests, due dates for major assignments, and the day-to-day daily work/homework. For this information, you and your child may check my “Assignments” page. Here you will find a drop down option in order to find prompts and homework.
  • Another great place to go is “Classroom News” and my new button, “Tutorials”. I will try to record as many tutorials as I can to help my students with various concepts. Any and all feedback is greatly appreciated. 
  • In “Classroom News”, I like to keep you informed about what we will be covering during the week.

In closing, I want you to know that we have had a great couple of weeks. I am truly excited about this school year.  Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns about anything.
Take care, and I look forward to meeting you all very soon.
Sincerely,
[removed]


Disclaimer: I've done my best to NOT link to copyrighted content while writing this blog entry so as not to participate in "contributory infringement" outlined in DMCA.



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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

1 comment:

doug0077 said...

Hi Miguel,

If we are going to be responsible for the morality of all citizens in each of our respective states, we may both be in trouble.

In defense of my MN teacher, it looks like the sin here is not the use of the book (if it was made available for a special needs student), but that it was left available without password protection for all the world to access. Much like posting a generic username and password by the link of a commercial database.

My sense is that book publishers will wake up and realize that if they don't start offering their materials in inexpensive, easy to use and value-added ways, pirated books will do to them what pirated music did to that industry.

Oh, given human nature, I am sure I can find a stolen car, stolen clothing, stolen watch or any good if you really want to buy it. Why should intellectual property be immune to theft?

Doug

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Disclaimer

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure