Is It Okay To Use Public Domain For Kindle And Nook Books?

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

Amazon IS cracking down on Public Domain!  This is actually very Good News in my opinion.

Consider this...

You have walked in your favorite book store and found a few books that look like interesting reads.  They are a not too expensive and you purchase them all.

You get home with your new book selection... and check your mail box on the way in the door.

What's this?  A coupon for your favorite book store - the store you just left - where you can redeem this coupon and get each one of the books you just brought home FREE.  You are not a happy camper.

Now... consider this:

You've got these books in your hand and you notice something about them. They are different than the FREE versions.  They might have some or all of this content:

  • A complimentary audio version.
  • A complimentary video version.
  • They are actually a compilation of the authors works.
  • They are a compilation of similar content in your favorite topic.
  • They are revised and updated with your rewritten content (and you have added comments or other content found elsewhere).
  • They have added images - graphics - lists - worksheets - guides.
  • The title - format - and content barely resembles the FREE version.
  • The books you just paid for are worth every penny - because they are BETTER than the free version.

What You Have Purchased Is Considered A Derivative Work!

Yesterday - I got this great question:

I was recently listening to a webinar by someone selling a course on how to sell books for Kindle on Amazon (I did not purchase the course). They talked about buying PLR books & rewriting them to sell on Kindle, they said to stay away from public domain (there was a place when uploading the book that you check whether it's public domain or your own content) because Amazon is cracking down on public domain, do you know anything about this, whether or not this is true?

I know exactly which webinar this was mentioned.  It was a webinar hosted by James J. Jones about publishing PLR books on Kindle.

I contacted James about this:

This is Debra Conrad from Public Domain Treasure Hunter and I'm a bit concerned about James sharing the idea that using Public Domain on Amazon is NOT a good plan.

I've been flooded with questions from my readers that are also loyal fans (as I am) of James Jones. In fact I first found out about Public Domain from James years ago!

I understand that James PLR product is what he is promoting with these webinars - but I'm a huge fan of combining PLR and Public Domain content to create unique products to sell on Amazon with CreateSpace and for Kindle.

In fact I have many of my readers who are doing just that!

Using easy to find Public Domain content from the free archives is NOT the path I suggest to my readers.

I suggest using the harder to find (newer) Public Domain content (like the books found on my Best Public Domain Books site) as my main focus. But... many of these members are concerned about and feeling discouraged by some of James comments about Public Domain.

James is a well known and trusted figure in internet marketing... and I'm sure he knows the value of using Public Domain content in a variety of ways.

I would hope that James would clarify the reasons behind his comments so that I can relive the concerns of my readers.

Thank You

Debra Conrad

I got a response from James right away...

Hi Debra!

I tell people to not upload Public Domain works into the Kindle DTP Platform because amazon only pays 35% royalty on PD Kindle works. However, if you are modifying the PD then you are creating a unique work and its no longer PD.  Most people don't want to bother doing this so i tell them to just use PLR instead.

I'll be sure to put in that caveat the next time I talk about PD.

You can quote me if you want.



Are you with me so far? Amazon has said NO MORE Public Domain content - and if they do allow you to publish they will only pay your a 35% royalty.

IF You Create Something that is considered a "Derivative" work...

then it's no longer Public Domain and you can publish away!!!

If you publish something considered a Derivative - you get the FULL Royalty.

That was yesterday.  Today - I sat in on 4 hours (2 Webinars) about publishing on the Barns and Noble NOOK platform.

Guess What!?

Barns and Noble Nook Publishing doesn't  have a Public Domain "section" for publishers!  They will allow all works - Public Domain AS IS content (at the time of this writing) and pay 70% royalty!

That's what I call Good News!

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  1. says

    Hi Debra, very nice posting, thank you. The bad thing about B&N and Pubit is that you need to have a US bank account for their payments -which is impossible to get for non-US citizens, even more after 9-11. Amazon is accepting international publishers. Although they only send cheques, which are very expensive to cash in here in Germany, it´s still worth your while publishing there.

    Keep on going strong,

  2. says

    Thank you Debra for this. I just heard about Barnes and Noble Nook and I tried to check it out. Apparently it comes in cheaper and has color which would make it preferable to Kindle. However, when I checked the site it was chock full of negative comments from viewers. Apparently it is not sold in Canada for a start. Why not?
    Next, it is difficult for people in the U. S. to get their hands on it. Also, there are no solid sensible answers coming in from B&N.
    Thanks, Betty
    Betty Locke´s last blog post ..A GIFT FROM THE SUN

  3. Del Williams says

    Hi Debra,
    I have published over 150 PD books online, and I can tell you that Amazon does NOT allow any books which can be found on Gutenberg or Google Books, since they have decided to share their books free. In order to publish a PD book, you have to add at least ten photos, update it tad to differentiate it from the original. In that case I do not put the the book is PD although Amazon is sorta like the police in that regard. I once made a compilation of 5 books in an area and they wanted proof that each book was in PD, though legally I did not have to since the lay out was different. I withdrew it because of their want of death dates, publishing dates, status, etc. I found a better way to do what I wanted and it needed no proof. Also, putting yourself as editor will almost automatically get you an email asking for proof of everything.

    As of Feb 4th of this year, you do have to differentiate your PD stuff on Amazon. BN is not a problem at all, and I make a good income from those books.

    One work around is BEFORE uploading the book to either site, run the title on both sites. If there is a bunch of NOOK or KINDLE copies don’t bother since you will be competing with free or the 95 cent publisher, which we cannot do.

    Another idea is to use articles for the book as opposed to full books.
    Sorry this was long winded.

  4. says

    Thanks so much Del… this is really good info. I’m always so happy when someone more informed than I… will offer good sound advice. Thank You!

    I’m going to be really diving into publishing in a big way on Amazon and B&N etc. It hasn’t been one of my passions – so I haven’t done much.

    I think for most of us it’s a question of quantity vs. quality. Most of the advice I’ve seen lately requires a huge volume of publishing… and it’s really publishing garbage PLR (I am not bashing PLR – I love GOOD PLR) as books. Does the world really need 1000’s of garbage books?

    I hope that most of my readers will not fall into that trap… I want to see quality (something you can be proud of) books published.

    I have a friend who calls me “THE Author” LOL. My first published book was a labor of sweat and tears. I’m very proud of it

    I don’t plan to “ever” put that much effort into a book again. I DO plan to publish books that I can be equally proud of.

    I would love to have you share more tips on this subject. You just let me know!


  5. says

    If I were to put together a collection of short stories, added a short biography of each author and maybe some background about the events or locations of the story, would that be enough additional material to justify not calling it PD? Say 8 to 12 short stories that share a theme?

    Thanks in advance–great article, as always!
    Magpie´s last blog post ..Piggy Greeting Card

  6. says

    Magpie, I’d encourage you to shift your strategy just a tad bit. Instead of thinking of the minimum you can do, think in terms of what Debra mentioned above, “I want to see quality” books published.

    So, just decide on a target, let’s say the twelve additions you mentioned. That is likely enough to justify the test for a derivative work (for 12 chap book) but that depends on the entire page volume of the book you’re working with.

    Strive for quality and excellence and it will all work out for everyone involved.

    Todd D. Lloyd
    TODD´s last blog post ..Why Is Gardening Good Medicine?

  7. says

    Glad to find out that he was saying yes when the other person thought he was saying no. A lot of people tend to get confused as to what they are allowed to do and what they are not.

    I am still trying to figure out how to get a nook book uploaded. LOL
    Marilyn aka G-Ma´s last blog post ..Thinking of Mom

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