As the year comes to an end we welcome the new one with expectation, crossed fingers, legs and eyes. Although 2020 has been marked by the opening of the Hellmouth and the resulting apocalypse, it also came bearing gifts, the greatest of gifts, the gift of free literature.
Before we dive into their pages, here’s a brief summary of the ‘public domain’.
The public domain defines works that are not covered by intellectual property rights (such as copyright) at all, or if the intellectual property rights to the works have expired. Public domain books are those that have either not been covered by intellectual property rights by choice of the author or that no longer have a valid copyright, in which case, we’re talking classics.
There used to be a whole host of books that became public domain every year, however, in 1998 the Copyright Term Extension Act added an additional 20 years to all copyright. We now find ourselves in the era of the returning public domain.
When a book is in the public domain, it belongs to the public, there’s no possible copyright infringement, meaning that you can consume or adapt as you wish. This includes audio recordings of spoken literature, movies, stage adaptations and so on.
This public literature also becomes more accessible, for example, the organisation Project Gutenberg currently has over 60,000 free books available for you to consume as you wish and more are being added every January 1st.
In 2019, some discoveries relating to filing uncovered new titles that had previously been understood to have longer copyrights, you can check out the huge variety of work which includes white papers, academic writing and other literature available through the Secretly Public Domain Bot
Here is a list of the titles that now belong to you, the public as of January 2020
2020 PUBLIC DOMAIN BOOKS
The Land That Time Forgot and Tarzan and The Ant Man, both by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The Man in the Brown Suit and Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
A Gentleman of Courage by James Oliver Curwood
Call of the Canyon by Zane Grey
The Gift of Black Folk by WEB DuBois
So Big by Edna Ferber
The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
The Constant Nymph by Margaret Kennedy
Gerald Cranston’s Lady by Gilbert Frankau
Diary of a Young Lady of Fashion 1764–65 by Cleone Knox
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
Something Childish and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
Billy Budd by Herman Melvill
Dr. Doolittle’s Circus by Hugh Lofting (book 4 in the series)
The Dream Coach by Anne Parrish
The Treasures of Typhon by Eden Phillpotts
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
Precious Bane by Mary Webb
The Dream and The Story of a Great Schoolmaster by H.G. Wells
Desire Under The Elms by Eugene O’Neill
My Further Disillusionment in Russia by Emma Goldman
Edith Wharton’s The Old Maid
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
The Autobiography of Mark Twain by Mark Twain
Golden Wattle Cookery Book by Margaret Wylie
For an exhaustive list of public domain books from the 1st Millenium BC to now, check out this Wiki page