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Pride and Prejudice and Kindles: Amazon offers British Library classics for free

The British Library is to offer the works of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and other literary giants, for free to Amazon Kindle owners

You've seen the film, probably with Helen Bonham Carter and Emma Thompson; now read the original book, on your Kindle, for nowt. The works of Dickens and Austen are among 65,000 classics of English literature digitised by the British Library and coming soon, for free, to Amazon's ebook reader.

The titles were scanned on Microsoft's dime as part of its now-defunct Live Search project. They're all from the 19th century and are out of copyright. Amazon will offer the ebooks to Kindle owners through its Kindle store in late spring or early summer, leaving you with no excuse not to dive into the seminal classics of English literature, such as Oliver Twist, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, or that one with Gwyneth Paltrow. Fingers crossed for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

The titles will be available on the Kindle only under this deal. Although Amazon has yet to confirm the format, this presumably means the ebooks will be in the DRM-locked .azw format. Printed versions, designed to look like the original editions with authentic olde-worlde typefaces and illustrations, can be ordered from Amazon for £15 to £20.

Fortunately, the Amazon deal doesn't prohibit the titles from being made available in other formats on other devices, should separate agreements be reached. The British Library told Crave it's discussing deals across the industry, which could see the titles appear in open formats such as ePub or on devices such as the Sony Reader, iriver Story or Interead Cool-er. They could even show up on the Apple iPad when the iBooks store opens.

More recent books will be digitised eventually, although that's a whole other kettle o'copyright. The British Library is currently focusing on digitising its 3 million pages of newspapers, with 19th-century publications set to be made available free to education types and libraries.