I have to preface this post by stating that I am not a lawyer and therefore can’t offer legal advice.
Additionally, you need Stephen Fishman’s excellent book on Public Domain on your bookshelf before you go diving into the Public Domain ocean.
What I’m about to outline is a method for doing an “express” public domain project.
First off, you need an evergreen topic.
Something people were as interested in 100 years ago as they are today.
The collection of advertising cookbooks I stumbled upon recently fits the bill.
Second, if you want to avoid vetting copyrights, choose a work that was published before 1923. This content is yours to use, edit or modify as you see fit.
The book I’ve chosen is titled: Choice Recipes: Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes, Home Made Candy Recipes and was published in 1913.
Turning to page 6 of this book revealed more than I’ve ever encountered about the water solubility and extractive factors of cooking cocoa and chocolate. It is also written by an MIT faculty member.
If I decide I want to run with this material, then all I need to do is hire an outsourcer to convert the text in the image to digital text. You should not pay more than 40 cents a page on small jobs. And if you want to handle this in-house, then you can use a piece of software called FineReader or print the pages out on your printer and run the pages through your scanner using the standard OCR software that came with it.
Once the text is converted to digital format, you can print your own paper-and-ink books/reports, create AdSense monetized websites and blogs or make your own e-books.