Project Gutenberg Needs to Stick to Giving Away Free eBooks and Not Reviewing eReaders

Project Gutenberg

Yesterday I found myself over at the Project Gutenberg website and I came across something that I was not expecting to find on one of the oldest and most well-respected distributors of free public domain ebooks.

At the top of the main homepage there’s a section titled “New Kindle Fire Review”. It says “Before you buy: Read our Webmaster’s review of the new Kindle Fire.”

So I clicked through to read the review to see what it said, and I was shocked to find the most misinformative, biased review that I’ve ever read. In fact it’s not really even a review at all; it’s more of an anti-Kindle rant, and a misleading one at that.

Normally I wouldn’t go through the trouble of pointing out a review this bad, but it deserves being debunked for the simple fact that it appears on one of the biggest and most popular free ebook websites online.

The reviewer makes their stance clear in the first sentence of the summary: “Don’t buy a Kindle Fire, buy a Nexus 7 instead.”

I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement (it depends on a number of factors as outlined in my Kindle Fire HD vs Google Nexus 7 Review), but I do disagree with the reviewer’s reasoning behind it.

The first paragraph states that the Kindle Fire is bad for ebooks because it is so locked down that it is a huge step back from the Kindle 3. This is based on the single fact that the Kindle 3 can download ebooks from Project Gutenberg with the web browser to read instantly whereas the Kindle Fire requires you to move the ebook from the web browser’s download folder to the Kindle’s documents folder.

I’ll admit having to manually move the file is somewhat of a hassle on the Kindle Fire, but the reviewer fails to mention any of the advantages the Fire has over its E Ink siblings, like supporting ePub format through the OverDrive app (which is officially available through the Kindle Fire’s appstore, btw) and all the other ebook apps and news apps and comic apps you could ever want through sideloading, even Amazon’s competitors like Kobo and Nook.

Oh, but the Project Gutenberg review states that having to install a third party ePub reader onto the Kindle Fire is too much of a hassle because you’d have to learn how to use two different apps to read ebooks on the same device, and that the Nexus 7 is better because it “handles free ebooks with ease”.

I love the irony of that statement and I’ll tell you why. The Google Nexus 7 comes pre-loaded with Google’s ebook app, called Google Play Books. It’s a decent app, but it’s one of the most limiting ereading apps out there. Most apps, including the Kindle app, allow sideloading DRM-free ebooks. But the Google Books apps doesn’t allow any sideloading whatsoever; it only works with ebooks from Google. So the truth is the Nexus 7 needs to have a third party ePub reader installed to be able to read Project Gutenberg ebooks to begin with, whereas the Kindle Fire just needs to have the downloaded ebook file moved to the proper folder.

So I’m not buying the argument that the Nexus 7 is better for reading ebooks than the Kindle Fire. Both are actually quite similar. The Nexus 7 certainly has some advantages, but the review neglected to actually mention any of them.

Another misleading fact toward the end of the review in bold letters states the Nexus 7 is essentially $25 cheaper than the equivalent Kindle Fire HD because it doesn’t have ads and comes with a wall charger. While that is true, the $25 in savings is misleading because if you purchase them online the Kindle comes with free shipping and the Nexus 7 you have to pay $13.99 for shipping.

I don’t know when Project Gutenberg decided to start posting ereader reviews, but they really should stick to giving away free public domain ebooks instead.

6 Responses to “Project Gutenberg Needs to Stick to Giving Away Free eBooks and Not Reviewing eReaders”

  1. Agree EXCEPT you can get the Nexus 7 with free shipping from other sites such as WalMart (ship to store)–mine came with a free padded/zippered sleeve cover as well. I purchased the Nexus 7 largely with thanks to reviewers like you and those at other tech sites and have not regretted it for a moment–for me it is the right size to read and use as a travel tablet (replacing my large and heavy laptop on shorter trips).

  2. That review has been up for months. It is rather inappropriate for the Gutenberg web site. The moving of files is a nuisance that all android devices share. Aldiko is my app of choice to get around this in the case of books.

  3. Yeah, every now and then I notice something strange come out of the PG site. I saw this review when it was first posted last summer, and in their Jan 2013 newsletter, they included a strange realty pitch, attempting to sell Michael S. Hart’s old house:

    “Michael Hart’s house is up for sale

    The executors of the estate of Michael S. Hart, Project Gutenberg’s founder, would like to announce that Michael’s house is now for sale. The house is located in Urbana, Illinois. It is a 110+-year old house with some spectacular features, but in need of some updates, fixes and care. For further information:”

    I guess I never expected for PG to spam me with realty ads, but I’m sure some eBook fetishist was delighted to learn of this news and put in a bid. I never minded the rant (I love writing them myself), but as Nathan said, they could have done a better job of backing it up.

  4. In agreement with comments posted about PG’s eReader “rant”… but in this real estate market, I can’t fault someone for taking extreme measures to bring a for-sale listing to someone’s… anyone’s!… attention, LOL.

  5. hi Nathan my kindle fire he won’t install apk files any help?