Google is making half a million books, unprotected by copyright, available for free on Sony's electronic book-reading device. It's the first time Google has made its vast trove of scanned public-domain books available to an e-book device, and vaults the Sony Reader past Amazon'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 e-book 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.