Recovering the Classics: DailyLit Gives a Facelift to Public Domain Titles

In News by Dennis Abrams

Daily Lit Redesigned Classics

By Dennis Abrams

Over at DailyLit, the site that allows users to receive short book installments by email or RSS feed, they recently discovered a disturbing fact. There’s a wide array of great classic books available in the public domain. But at the same time, while the text is in the public domain, the covers are not (which is the reason why there are so many ugly generated covers on Kindle and Google books).

What to do?

DailyLit is happy to announce that through a partnership with Harvard Bookstore and the team behind Design for Obama, artists have been asked to reimagine covers for books like The Wizard of Oz, Pride and Prejudice, Moby Dick, and Sherlock Holmes.

The name? Recovering the Classics.

The first sets are being released this week: Print editions will be available with custom covers printed on Harvard Bookstore’s print-on-demand machine (which includes an ebook edition as well!), or one can purchase the ebook for around $2.99.

It is, as DailyLit says, new business model, one that reimagines what the book and bookstore of the future could be.

In a press release, the company further elaborated on the idea and the need of reclaiming the public domain for the public’s use:

“In the US the first federal copyright legislation (the 1790 Copyright Act) set the maximum term of ownership for content creators at 14 years plus the ability to renew for another 14. Then Congress doubled that term (several times) before they changed it to the number of years after the life of the creator, then they added more time after that. Protecting copyright for 670 years (as the standard now) after the creator’s death does a great job of protecting the large corporations and media companies with vaults of content to profit from (like Disney), but that leaves much less content for the rest of us to watch, remix, and enjoy without paying for it.

“It doesn’t have to be so all-or-nothing. Content can and should be reasonably available to everyone and content creators should be reasonably compensated. Luckily, new technologies for the creation and distribution of content are making this process more possible and democratic every day.”

That’s why Recovering the Classics is “an attempt to highlight just a glimpse of what’s possible when we embrace the public domain.”

So with the launch on May 28th, “artists from around the world now have the opportunity to ‘re-cover’ [the new paperback and ebook editions] and share them anew, without requiring a license from the copyright holder. Book lovers get fresh content, artists get exposure and get paid, and the content creators, if they were around today, would see new audiences experiencing their work.”

“It’s time,” the company proclaims, “to reclaim the public domain for its original purpose: making information and beauty accessible to everyone.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.