Google Inc. is making half a million books, unprotected by copyright, available free of charge on Sony Corp.’s electronic book-reading device, reports the Associated Press. It’s the first time Google has made its vast trove of scanned public-domain books available to an eBook device, and vaults the Sony Reader past Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle as the device with the largest available library, at about 600,000 books. The scanned books were all published before 1923 and include works like Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, as well as nonfiction classics like Herodotus’ The Histories. The books are already available as free downloads in the Portable Document Format (PDF), which works well on computer screens but not on eBook readers. Google will provide the books to the Sony Reader in the EPUB (electronic publication) format, which lets the lines flow differently to fit a smaller screen. The publishing industry has more or less united on EPUB for eBook distribution, but Amazon uses its own format for the Kindle…

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