Originally digitised in partnership with Microsoft Livesearch, the British Library’s new deal with Amazon will unlock 65,000 editions of 19th century philosophy, history, poetry and literature – over 25 million pages of content. Covering Amazon's sites in US, the UK, France and Germany, and Amazon's revolutionary wireless portable reading device Kindle, this landmark agreement will enable a whole new global generation of readers to rediscover countless forgotten literary gems.
Estimates suggest that roughly 35% to 40% of the British Library's 19th century British printed collections are either unique, or at least inaccessible through other major libraries in the UK and abroad. This deal is a prime example of how the British Library is continuing to explore new technologies and innovative business models to improve access to its historic collections.
Covering the likes of Dickens, Austen, and Conan Doyle, the 65,000 titles also include a range of lesser know Victorian classics such as, A Strange Story by Edward Lytton, one of the period's most popular novelists - now largely neglected, and The Story of a Modern Woman by Ella Hepworth Dixon, described as 'the greatest unread novel of female struggle'. Through print on-demand with CreateSpace, part of the Amazon group of companies, readers will be able to have their very own copies of these previously rare and inaccessible titles now in the public domain, including some classic first editions, re-printed at an affordable price. Print-on-demand is both a convenient and economically viable way of making these collections available. In addition, Kindle owners will be able to download these titles for free.
Chief Executive of the British Library, Dame Lynne Brindley, said:
"The British Library's deal with Amazon to make literary gems available through print-on-demand and the Kindle e-book reader is a landmark agreement in more ways than one. Unlocking 65,000 titles of 19th century material for new generations to discover, the deal also shows how innovative public sector institutions can keep moving ahead, even in a tough economic climate.
"Re-imagining our relationships with both private and public sector partners is absolutely essential for extending our ability to connect with our users. The British Library has much to offer major commercial organisations such as Amazon, giving us an opportunity to leverage the high value of our collections to ensure doors that might have been closed for lack of funding remain open."