So, the public domain is a wonderful thing. The public domain, according to Wikipedia, is where all works of art or writing or inventions are that have not been or are not copyrighted or patented.
It’s called the public domain because these works are considered the property of the public. You don’t have to pay anyone if you, say, put on a play by Shakespeare or perhaps decide to write a sequel to Beowulf. The rights to public domain works are now the public’s.
The reason I think the public domain is a wonderful thing is that you can read books right off the internet. When I first started working and had nothing to do at lunch, I spent that time reading The Island of Dr. Moreau which is very different than the movie. I read it on Bartleby.com. I then graduated to The Thousand and One Nights. I’ve also downloaded books from Gutenberg.org, named after the famous Gutenberg press, but representing another level of mass market and freedom of information well beyond that first printing press.
Then recently, I discovered Audible.com and the joy of audiobooks. Audiobooks are what has kept me in clean clothes because you can do just about anything with a an IPod in your ear, and music doesn’t keep me entertained enough to want to do laundry. But Audible.com is not free, not the public domain, and when I could no longer afford the reasonably-priced subscription in my monthly budget, I found Librivox.org.
Librivox is the public domain audiobooks(!!) read by volunteers. I hit the gold mine. I listened to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Tragedy of Puddn’head Wilson and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain, and I’m now working my way through the entire, original Sherlock Holmes series.
The Sherlock Holmes recording is read by a very talented British woman-volunteer who has made it extremely entertaining. Some of the recordings are a little awkward, even some of the ones on Audible.com, and those are paid actors/voices. But the good ones are really good.
So this is why I love the public domain–the magical place where books and information are free. It’s certainly a wonderful world we live in!