myPadMedia: eBooks for the Gullible

The other day, an email correspondent asked:

I clicked on an ad that led me to the following website: http://www.mypadmedia.com/join.html
This website claims it provides access to over 30,000 ebooks, some by well-known authors, for a single payment of $49.95 for a lifetime membership. I wonder if you’ve heard of this, and do you know if this sort of service is legal?

I hadn’t heard of it, but I did check it out and found an interesting story. The myPadMedia site is remarkably uninformative about just what that $50 one-time payment delivers beyond thousands of free books for the iPad and iPhone: no descriptions of authors and titles, and links that would seem to lead to more information all take you to a signup page where you are asked to provide credit card information. myPadMedia also seems to have played some clever games with search engine optimization so that when you search for myPadMedia, the results are dominated by a bunch of phony blogs, including one titled “MyPadMedia Scam,” that praise the service and provide helpful links to get you to sign up.

But Gear Diary has done a good job unraveling the mystery of myPadMedia. For $50, myPadMedia seems to be providing a service that links to feedbooks.com, epubbooks.com, manybooks.net, legitimate sites offering ebook versions of works in the public domain or works whose rights holders have chosen to make available free (many of the titles come from the estimable Project Gutenberg.) Of course, all of these services are available to anyone without forking over $50 to anyone.

Unless it is distributing pirated versions of works in copyright–and I didn’t feel like sending $50 to some grifters to investigate further–I don’t think myPadMedia is doing anything illegal. They do seem to be violating the terms of service of the sites that they scrape or link to, but legal battles are tough for sites that basically are providing a free service.

Happily, the net is rich in free ebooks, both in Kindle’s .mobi format, and in the more standard epub format used by iBooks, Sony Reader, and nook. Don’t go paying for something that people are trying to give away.

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