Apple definitely isn't known for giving things away for free. However, folks who shell out the $499 for an iPad next month won't have to max out their credit card on book purchases. AppleInsider reports that the Mac maker has already listed over 30,000 free books on its iBookstore.
The free titles, all public-domain works, were digitized by Project Gutenberg—and it sounds like they span the entirety of the volunteer effort's library. (The Project Gutenberg website describes itself as "the place where you can download over 30,000 free ebooks to read on your PC, iPhone, Kindle, Sony Reader or other portable device.")
Aside from beefing up the iBookstore and further legitimizing the iPad as an e-book reader, the addition of Project Gutenberg e-books may also help keep Apple in control of print content on the device.
AppleInsider points out that, when the iPhone App Store first opened, third parties offered many individual "apps" containing single public-domain books. Making the same titles available for free on the iBookstore could keep the App Store uncluttered and ensure users do their reading in the official iBooks app. Also, according to AppleInsider, keeping books off the App Store will make the task of managing adult content easier.