December 6, 2022

Sharing Public Domain Ebooks with the Book Elf



The Book Elf is a new tool for getting digital content into the hands of readers. Discovery of titles could be improved, but it does have some potential.

Once you sign-up for the Book Elf, you have access to PDF and/or EPUB versions of a variety of public domain (PD) titles. The database of content is built by people like you and me. That means if you have access to a PD title that you would like to make available in the Book Elf, you can submit it for review. It’s a worthwhile concept for building the site’s collection.

Some of the basic content discovery functions, however, are a bit problematic. While users can search for titles by author and title, one cannot browse the Book Elf collection. That can make it difficult if a user doesn’t know exactly what they want to read, or can’t remember the author or title of a book they heard about from a friend or colleague.

Downloading titles is a simple process as is adding titles to your own bookshelf. The sharing of bookshelves is where a social aspect of the Book Elf comes in. You can search for other users (again, the search is not as easy as it might be) and add them as friends. You can see what’s on friend’s bookshelves and add their titles to your own shelf.

In the future the Book Elf plans to go beyond PD content. Their goal is to work with authors and publishers to create a license that would make it possible to borrow these copyrighted materials from The Book Elf site. If this expansion of content is achieved, the site could have some added potential for use with library users.


Linda W. Braun About Linda W. Braun

Linda W. Braun ( is the Youth Services Manager at Seattle Public Library, an educational technology consultant, a past president of YALSA, and adjunct faculty at Simmons College Graduate School of Library & Information Science.


  1. We’re going to have to go through a lot of failed attempts before we figure out how to make eBooks and DRM work, so I applaud these people for trying, but I really don’t see any difference at all between what Book Elf is trying to do and what Overdrive already does with libraries – let me request a copyrighted book, and the library gives it to me and only me for two weeks, then it becomes available for someone else.

    • Linda W. Braun says:

      I think the crowdsourcing of titles is something that makes the site different than others and can help make lesser known PD content available. But, the long-term goal of The Book Elf to make circulation is really what’s going to set it apart, if those behind the site can turn their goals into reality.

  2. How is Book Elf different from Project Gutenberg? Is it easy to use?

    • Linda W. Braun says:

      It is pretty easy to use. I think the big difference between The Book Elf and Project Gutenberg is the crowdsource nature of the catalog they are building. Also, the goal to create a new copyright for sharing of e-books. We will see what happens with that.

  3. The site isn’t working for me. Anyone else?

    • Linda W. Braun says:

      The site doesn’t seem to even exist at the moment. Not sure if it’s a temporary down-time or something larger.

  4. Ebook have become the newest frontier in literature, emerging as a viable alternative for many large publishers and distributors. Advocates of eBooks taunt the benefits of saving paper and the mass storage capacity of eBook reading devices. The prospect of selling royalty-free public domain eBooks has also allured independent publishers with little or no working capital. To learn how to sell public domain eBooks, here’s some suggestions