Printing vintage books from the LOC

lulubooksLucy writes:

I’ve been loving your library of congress posts from the other week! They intersected nicely with my new obsession, printing hard-to-find old books on Have you seen Lulu before? It’s a print-on-demand, and it’s pretty cheap (I’ve done 5 books so far, ranging from about $3.50 to $17.00 depending on length). I’m attaching some photos of my loot so far. [at right, also]

I’ve done the (fairly easy) work of uploading/formatting for Lulu, and I believe I can make the “books” publicly-purchasable. I haven’t yet because of lingering questions about copyright, but since these are in the public domain I think it should be legal (we’re paying Lulu for the printing, not the content). They do hardback as well as paperback (paper’s cheaper) and they do a good job of the printing. The covers are a little low-res for printing, since I just adapt them from the scanned copy, but they’ll do.

In case you wonder, Lucy doesn’t work for Lulu, she’s a professor at a prestigious apparel program. I wrote her in response to her great suggestion but haven’t heard back yet. She’s formatted the Italian book, Simon’s grading book and the cute Union Special production sewing book so I’m hoping she’ll open the option to us too.

I went to Lulu to try it out myself. The problem with making it publicly purchasable is tending the sales side which is not something I’m interested in doing (I’m tired of being accused of being a profit monger as it is and don’t want to ride herd on this project).  Is anyone interested in volunteering to adopt the various titles I mentioned in the entries (or any others that interest you) and formatting them for purchase? My thinking is that we could aggregate volunteers for the various titles, drop the links in comments and we’d all benefit with thanks to you. If you’re interested, post your title(s), the price (presumably at no profit beyond a very small handling fee) and let us know when it’s ready. I’ll amend your first comment with the link to purchase. Thanks bunches.

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  1. Marilyn D. says:

    People who work for their money like you do and offer so much knowledge to the public for free should not listen to grumpy people who are unhappy that the money tree didn’t sprout in their yard. I see posts every so often complaining that a person in business is actually getting somewhere.

  2. Esther says:

    It is also theoretically possible to get these on a kindle, as in kindle format, at no cost. Have to use Calibre and convert the PDF’s or text into mobi format. Not sure how well it will work since some of those books are scanned images and those don’t do well on kindles at all.

  3. Quincunx says:

    And the blogosphere was shaken with a cry of “I wish I’d thought of that!”. For sheer volume of texts, I’ve bought more from Dover Press, an imprint specifically for reprinting out-of-copyright books, than any other.

    There’ll be a small learning curve before I make any promises, but this is very much worth looking into. Any other e-readers worth the time? Will be looking at iPad requirements for sure. (By the way, the credit given for keeping me from nagging my husband? Just evaporated. It’s his iPad. ;) )

  4. This should be feasible with at least some documents from the Library of Congress.

    Books from Lulu are NOT in the public domain. Those are personally published, copyrighted, original works. Permission to download a copy is NOT permission to reformat, print and resell – any more than you could legally or ethically buy Kathleen’s book and scan, print and sell copies.

    I love the copyright-free Dover Press books and have a slug of them. Comparable printouts from the LOC are well worth looking into.

    But please, don’t assume that being able to download an article or book gives you anything more than the right to have it around for private use.

  5. Kathy Jo says:

    Profit monger, now that’s funny! As usual people that have such opinions are obviously ignorant of the fact that you provide more knowledge and real world experience to us free than most colleges.

  6. Esther says:

    Carol is correct that most books on Lulu are NOT in the public domain. But there is nothing that can stop a person from using public domain materials and making it available on Lulu. Such a thing would not impinge anyone’s copyright and is perfectly legal.

  7. Thank you, Esther.

    Lulu certainly would work for POD (publish on demand) for copyright-free materials. It’s more expensive than many other POD sites. The quality is what you’re paying for, and it’s worth it.

    I’m fantasizing a Rube-Goldberg-esque circle of
    …download from the Library of Congress
    …format to print on Lulu
    …make available then from Lulu
    …third parties pay for one download, reformat it, put it up for sale

  8. Kathleen says:

    As per Alison’s earlier suggestion, a forum member has started listing available titles she’s formatted on Lulu for purchase (at cost).

    Carol: anything is possible; it’s a risk and you have to take one sometime or there is no gain. Buyer beware, check the list price. Fwiw Carol, it is not illegal to resell stuff in the public domain if you can find someone who will buy it. Maybe unethical (w/o disclosure), but not illegal.

  9. No, I never thought making public domain stuff available for resale was illegal, or even unethical (though if I were doing it I’d make the origin clear). I misread the original post as suggesting that things on the Lulu site were free to pass on for gain, rather than that it could be used as a platform for making out-of-copyright work available again.


    I had to have been one of the first to download a copy of El Modellisimo, and if I haven’t glommed everything suggested from there out, it’s only that I’ve got to use my computer for work, too.

  10. Quincunx says:

    I should have signed up for a library card earlier. The Sacramento County public libraries are trying out several interesting ideas for modern libraries and one of them is a bookbinding machine. On site. For the binding of your own genealogy research or for other _not in copyright_ material. Whatever fee there is for supplies is fine. That will be worth it.

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