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Open Access eBooks, Part 2. What does Open Access Mean for e-books?

Reprinted from the Go To Hellman blog from Eric Hellman.  Here’s the second section of my draft of a book chapter for a book edited by No Shelf Required‘s Sue Polanka. I previously posted the introduction; subsequent posts will include sections on Business Models for Open Access E-Books, and Open Access E-Books in Libraries. Note that while the blog always uses “ebook” as one word, the book will use the hyphenated form, “e-book”. The comments on the first section have been really good; please don’t stop!  Comments can be directed to Eric via the Go To Hellman blog.

What does Open Access mean for e-books?
There are varying definitions for the term “open access”, even for journal articles. For the moment, I will use this as a lower-case term broadly to mean any arrangement that allows for people to read a book without paying someone for the privilege. At the end of the section, I’ll capitalize the term. Although many e-books are available for free in violation of copyright laws, I’m excluding them from this discussion.

Public Domain
The most important category of open access for books is work that has entered the public domain. In the US, all works published before 1923 have entered the public domain, along with works from later years whose registration was not renewed. Works published in the US from 1923-1963 entered the public domain 28 years after publication unless the copyright registration was renewed. Public domain status depends on national law, and a work may be in the public domain in some countries but not in others. The rules of what is in and out of copyright can be confusing and sometimes almost impossible to determine correctly. Continue reading