Online Books FAQ of 6/1/93 (added a link on Jan. 26, 1995)


This FAQ addresses mainly the availability of PUBLIC DOMAIN sources of Etext available on the Internet. By "public domain" we mean text that is unencumbered and free from copyrights.

Note: Hypertext links below are, by default, FTP links.

Note 2: Another HTTP reference for online books can be found at CMU.

Table Of Contents

  1. Archive sites for books and Etext
  2. List of known books freely available
  3. Which texts are copyright?
  4. How to submit texts
  5. Related Usenet newsgroups
  6. Pointers to non public domain texts

Archive Sites for Books and Etext

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg releases approximately four high quality etexts per month into the public domain, and have been releasing texts since 1991. Texts released by Project Gutenberg are available by anonymous FTP on in /etext; please restrict transfers to times other than prime time.

FTP Link to Project Gutenberg

Link to CERN's Master Gutenberg HTML Index

     Project:     Project Gutenberg
     Directory:   /etext
     Size:        35MB
     Format:      ASCII
     Contents:    Gutenberg Released Books
     Access:      FTP
A mailing list is available, GUTNBERG-L, though it is not currently accepting new subscriptions. Please use the bit.listserv.gutnberg newsgroup instead.

Online Book Initiative

The Online Book Initiative, or OBI, collects and distributes text to the Internet. Many books and other materials are available for FTP and Gopher at, in /obi. Generally these texts are arranged by author. Size, approximately 200MB.

Link to Online Book Initiative

     Project:     Online Book Initiative
     Directory:   /obi
     Size:        200MB
     Format:      many
     Contents:    Public Domain Text
     Access:      FTP, Gopher

Internet Wiretap

Internet Wiretap also collects and distributes text to the Internet. Additionally, texts are prepared for the public domain on a somewhat regular schedule. Wiretap's archives are limited to ASCII text, and are available for FTP and Gopher on, in /Library and /Gov. Texts are arranged by subject; size, approximately 150MB.
     Project:     Internet Wiretap
     Directory:   /Library, /Gov
     Size:        150MB
     Format:      ASCII
     Contents:    Public Domain Text
     Access:      FTP, Gopher

Project Runeberg

Project Runeberg's intention is the free distribution of literary and artistic works in Scandinavian languages, much like Gutenberg exists for English. One of the major works in progress is a Swedish edition of the 1917 Bible. Project Runeberg is a distributed, grassroots effort.

Also available are approximately 12MB of mediaeval Swedish texts donated by Gothenburg University.

Gopher link to Project Runeberg

Link to /pub/runeberg

     Project:     Project Runeberg
     Directory:   /pub/runeberg
     Size:        About 1MB
     Format:      ISO 8859-1
     Contents:    Scandinavian Etext
     Access:      FTP, Gopher

Project Libellus

Several works (both Latin and Commentaries) have been produced. Like Runeberg, this is a distributed effort, and all texts are placed in the public domain.

Link to Project Libellus

     Project:     Project Libellus
     Directory:   /public/libellus
     Size:        About 1MB
     Format:      TeX
     Contents:    Latin Etext and Commentaries
     Access:      FTP

Other hosts containing smaller amounts of (or pointers to) Etext

The following sites have smaller quantities. Certain of these place restrictions on some of the text (notably, CCAT.)

In general, please try to restrict large transfers to non prime time hours for that specific region. This is particulary true if the transfer spans an ocean.

Dialup BBS's with Etext

Those without access to FTP can obtain a subset of the materials available from dialup BBS's:

     BBB BBS         Washington    +1 503 620 0307
     Darkside        California    +1 408 245 7726
     Central Neural  Washington    +1 509 627 6267
     DPA BBS         Alabama       +1 205 854 1660
If you know of a free, stable BBS with significant amounts of text online, please let us know.

List of known books freely available

This is a partial list of full length books that are available via FTP or Gopher somewhere on the network. Books with restrictions are not listed, since they can't be obtained anyway.

  1. Aesop: Fables, Paperless Edition. *
  2. Aesop: Fables, Townsend Translation. *
  3. Albert Hoffman: Problem Child.
  4. Ambrose Bierce: The Devil's Dictionary. +
  5. Anthony Trollope: Ayala's Angel.
  6. Artephius: The Secret Book (Alchemy).
  7. Baroness Orczy: The Scarlet Pimpernel. *
  8. Bible: Elberfelder Ubersetzung Bibel/
  9. Bible: Holy Bible/ *
  10. Bram Stoker: Dracula.
  11. Brendan P Kehoe: Zen and the Art of the Internet.
  12. CIA: Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare.
  13. CIA: World Fact Book 1990.
  14. CIA: World Fact Book 1991.
  15. CIA: World Fact Book 1992.
  16. Chaos Industries: The Big Book of Mischief v1.3.
  17. Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. *
  18. Charles Dickens: The Chimes.
  19. Charles Dickens: The Cricket on the Hearth.
  20. Charlotte Gilman: Herland. *
  21. Dale A Grote: Study Guide to Wheelock Latin.
  22. Daniel Young: Scientific Secrets, 1861.
  23. Decartes: Discourse on Reason. *
  24. Doyle: His Last Bow.
  25. Doyle: Hound of the Baskervilles.
  26. Doyle: Sign of Four.
  27. Doyle: Study in Scarlet.
  28. Doyle: The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
  29. Doyle: The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes.
  30. Doyle: The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.
  31. Doyle: The Return of Sherlock Holmes.
  32. Doyle: Through the Magic Door.
  33. Doyle: Valley of Fear.
  34. Edgar Rice Burroughs: A Princess of Mars. *
  35. Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Gods of Mars. *
  36. Edwin Abbott: Flatland. +
  37. Emily Bronte: Wuthering Heights.
  38. Federalist Papers. *
  39. Frederick Douglass: Narrative. *
  40. HG Wells: The Invisible Man.
  41. HG Wells: The Time Machine. *
  42. HG Wells: The War of the Worlds. *
  43. Hakim Bey: T.A.Z. Temporary Autonomous Zone.
  44. Henry Longfellow: The Song of Hiawatha. *
  45. Herman Melville: Moby Dick.
  46. JM Barrie: Peter Pan.
  47. Jack London: The Call of the Wild.
  48. John Cleland: Fanny Hill.
  49. John F McManus: The Insiders.
  50. John Milton: Paradise Lost. *
  51. John Milton: Paradise Regained. *
  52. Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness.
  53. Joseph Conrad: Lord Jim.
  54. Joseph Conrad: Secret Sharer.
  55. L Frank Baum: The Marvelous Land of Oz. *
  56. L Frank Baum: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.*
  57. Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. *
  58. Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass. *
  59. Louis Leclerc: Does America Say "Yes" to Japan.
  60. Lucy Montgomery: Anne of Avonlea. *
  61. Lucy Montgomery: Anne of Green Gables. *
  62. Lucy Montgomery: Anne of the Island. *
  63. Lysander Spooner: No Treason.
  64. MIT: Jargon File v2.9.10, July 1992.
  65. Malaclypse the Younger: Principia Discordia.
  66. Mark Twain: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. +
  67. Mark Twain: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. +
  68. Mark Twain: Tom Sawyer Abroad. +
  69. Mark Twain: Tom Sawyer, Detective. +
  70. Marx & Engels: Communist Manifesto. *
  71. Mormon: Book of Mormon. *
  72. Mormon: Doctrine & Covenants/
  73. Mormon: Pearl of Great Price/
  74. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter. *
  75. Norman Coombs: The Black Experience in America. *
  76. Norman F Joly: The Dawn of Amateur Radio in the UK and Greece. *
  77. Paul Tsongas: A Call To Economic Arms.
  78. Quran: Quran/
  79. Roget: Thesaurus of 1911. *
  80. Saki: Reginald.
  81. Saki: Reginald in Russia.
  82. Saki: The Chronicles of Clovis.
  83. Shakespeare: Complete Works/ *
  84. Sophocles: Oedipus Trilogy. *
  85. Stevenson: Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. *
  86. Thomas Hardy: Far from the Madding Crowd. *
  87. Walter Scott: Chronicles of the Canongate.
  88. Walter Scott: The Keepsake Stories.
  89. Wasserman & Solomon: Killing Our Own.
  90. Willa Cather: O Pioneers!. *
  91. Willa Cather: The Song of the Lark. *
  92. William James: Essays in Radical Empiricism.
* Indicates release by Project Gutenberg

+ Indicates release by Internet Wiretap

[ There are probably a few books we aren't aware of. Draft #1 had 75 books listed. Several have been released since then, and we have located some others. ]

Most texts here are available either on OBI or Wiretap. (The above is the Gopher directory "/Books" on Wiretap, which should always be up to date.) Gutenberg texts are also available on MRCNEXT and many other places.

One of the primary goals of Project Gutenberg, OBI, and Wiretap are to give the general public free and unencumbered access to electronic books whose copyrights have expired.

Which texts are copyright?

Copyright laws will vary upon location. In the United States, any work published 75 years ago (before about 1917) has an expired copyright and has entered the public domain. Although the US has ratified the Berne Convention, all works created prior to ratification still have the 75 year rule.

The above is actually a simplification of the actual law. Before 1978, copyrights lasted 28 years and could be renewed for another 28. Any work still copyright in 1978 had its copyright automatically stretched to 75 years. So, some works published after 1917 whose copyrights were not extended are in the public domain. However, you must research the copyright applications to determine if this is the case.

In Europe, works lose their copyrights on January 1st, fifty years after the author's (or translator's) death. Thus some published before 1917 may still be copyrighted, and some works published in 1942 may be in the public domain.

It should be noted that publication of a work without a copyright notice does not necessarily indicate a work is without copyright. (This used to be the case in the US, but it ended with ratification of the Berne Convention.)

How to submit texts

If you have scanned or typed in works that you know to be in the public domain, you can make them available to others.

Both OBI and Wiretap will accept submissions. We recommend you place copies on both if you consider the work "finished" (ie, proofread and acceptable.) Wiretap will also accept rough works for comparison to others.

To submit, use anonymous FTP to the appropriate directories:

     OBI:       /obi/incoming
     Wiretap:   /incoming
There is no guarantee a work will be made available once you submit it (eg, if the copyright is in question, or it is too raw to be made available to the public.)

If you do this, please place a label at the top of the text, something like "This Text is in the Public Domain". If possible, place also the date of the publication, and whatever other details you think will be helpful in ascertaining copyright status.

Related Usenet Newsgroups

Announcements and discussion regarding Electronic Text. Archives are kept on in /alt.etext
Announcements and discussion for Project Gutenberg. Note that release announcements also get posted to alt.etext, if you are unable to receive bit.* newsgroups. Archives are on
Public Access Computer Systems mailing list. This is mostly library oriented.
Books of all genres, and the publishing industry. High volume, popular newsgroup.
Text processing issues and methods. This is mostly centered on such topics at troff, nroff, etc.
ISO 8879 SGML, structured documents, markup languages. Markup languages are used to retain additional information about a document that would otherwise be lost if ASCII were used to represent it.
News concerning the availability of computer science technical reports over FTP. (Often these are in postscript form).

Pointers to non Public Domain texts

The CPET, or the Catalog of Projects in Electronic Text, maintains a list of groups that are creating and managing etext. Most of these groups are scholar-oriented and do not make their texts available to the general public, however. CPET resides at Georgetown University.

The CPET list itself is freely distributable, and can be obtained by FTP from



Please send additions, corrections, etc to:

[This FAQ is being crossposted to rec.arts.books, comp.text,, and comp.infosystems.gopher as well. It will be crossposted to news.answers when it is past draft stage.] / Thomas E Dell

Tom L for hypertext version