In 1919 E. Haldeman-Julius had a brilliant idea.
He would take books from the public domain (out-of-copyright books that are freely available for anyone to use without paying royalties), change their titles, and print them for sale.
In their small format and their blue covers, they became known to the public as “Little Blue Books.” To say they were popular is an understatement. Haldeman-Julius eventually sold more than 100 million copies of 3,000 different books.
Fast forward 80 years…I’m reading the story and realizing that I could do the same thing he’d done, but without having the expense of printing the books. I’d simply create them as e-books (this was before Kindle came out so they were in pdf format).
Back then, when I started looking at the e-book market, I was down on my luck. I’d lost my job, then I lost my house and my family was evicted. I hadn’t a cent to my name.
For my first attempt I found three small books in the public domain by an English author named James Allen, put them all together in one pdf and decided it should be called The James Allen Trilogy.
In the first 30 days of offering it, I made almost $1,500 and I was off to the races to find some more public domain books to repeat the process. “Recycling” public domain books became the basis for building my seven-figure business.
Today, with a cheap scanner, you can scan and digitize a book in less than an hour. Choose a title, create a cover (or have one created for you for as little as $5) and you’re in the publishing business.
There are millions of books in the public domain and new ones are regularly added. Basically, any book published before 1923 is in the public domain. Books published from 1923 to 1964 whose copyright was not renewed are also available. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, as many as 93% of authors failed to renew their copyrights, many times as an oversight.
Where do you find public domain books?
Used-book stores (online and offline) are great sources, as well as some antique stores that have an old book section. You have to use a little more diligence with the already-digitized versions you find on the web because some may not contain only the material from the original book.
Using public domain works are a quick, cheap way to create an e-book but two notes of caution:
- Amazon has specific rules about public domain books and what you need to do to get them accepted, so follow the rules.
- You need to know the rules about public domain and about copyrights, because copyright infringement is a serious, serious matter. You’ll find lots of free resources about this on the web that are easy to follow and understand. Take the time to study them.
If you’ve wanted to cash in on the booming book and e-book business but don’t want to have to write it yourself, you can find your treasure in one or more public domain books.
The truth is, there’s really no reason why e-books can’t fund your life overseas. There are simply so many ways you can create income from them.
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