Orbus sensualim pictus for the modern language learner
May 13, 2011 3:59 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find public domain e-books of English language teaching material that I can adapt into online courses.

As a lark, I'm planning on adapting some old (think vintage) language learning books into online courses. Part of this is just curiosity about how older material will look in a digital format (for example, adapting this old book), another part of it is a desire to use public domain material to create sellable courses that have some pedagogical quality. It's mostly an experiment.

I have a few questions related to this:
1. What's the easiest way to find public domain e-books for learning and teaching English? I've done a bit of searching on Google books but I was wondering if there were some particularly good search terms or other online resources that would have these. Ideally I'd love to have some books with grammar / vocabulary exercises that I could use.
2. Is it a matter of publication date? I.e., can I rely on books from a certain time period to be public domain? What's the latest time period I can use?
3. What are the usage rights for this sort of material? Is it possible to take, for example, a language learning book from 1920 and use the material for profit?

I'm a newbie to all this, so help is greatly appreciated!

Thank you!
posted by mammary16 to Education (3 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The main other source of public domain work is archive.org.
posted by shii at 5:23 AM on May 13, 2011

I found some grammar books with a quick search on Project Gutenberg, maybe you can find more books of interest there. They also have a few points about what copyright means for these books.
posted by gakiko at 6:44 AM on May 13, 2011

I'm not an expert so this is only my understanding.

You can rely on American books published before 1920-something to be public domain. Different countries have different laws. You can try looking around Wikipedia, or Wikimedia, for more info on copyright and public domain -- they would know. Project Gutenberg also has extensive explanations of how to know whether such-and-such is in the public domain.

Also according to my understanding, you can make money off of public domain books. I see a lot of books in the Kindle store that e-book "publishers" are trying to con people into paying a few dollars for, when they can be found for free. I also see on Amazon “publishers” selling their own editions, on-demand-printing, of out-of-print, public-domain books.
posted by thebazilist at 7:18 AM on May 13, 2011

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