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Gutenberg comes to mobile

Wattpad pads out copyrighted material

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Wattpad has added a significant chunk of the Gutenberg Project catalogue to its mobile phone application. It is making 17,000 books available for easy download to most mobile phones.

Wattpad is a user-generated content service, focused on making written material available to mobile phone users; users are invited to upload their scribblings, which are then made available for reading through a free mobile phone application.

The application is available for various Java versions, and works well enough. Though not as polished as MobiReader, it works on a much broader range of devices and includes a comprehensive browse-download system.

Like most user-generated content sites, the majority of content available is anything but user generated. The complete Harry Potter selection is there, along with choice works by Terry Pratchett and others who seem unlikely to have uploaded their own work. Wisely, the users have stayed away from anything by Harlan Ellison.

Wattpad told us it will remove any content when someone complains, but it seems harsh to ask copyright owners to constantly monitor the whole internet for their work - especially when the content is so obviously within copyright.

The Gutenberg Project is an ongoing attempt to digitise books beyond copyright, and make them freely available in a range of formats: so making the selection available to Wattpad users is in keeping with spirit of the project, and might make it easier to hide the copyrighted material which currently dominates the selection.

Hopefully the service will migrate towards more user-generated content as copyright owners object and more users come online, in much the same way that YouTube is gently evolving in that direction. But it is open to question if either service can maintain an audience for content generated only by other users. ®

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