[WOW] Millions of Free Ebooks

Category: Cool-Stuff , Reference

Since the days of the Egyptian pharaohs, libraries have offered access to the printed wisdom and folly of humanity, but only to “authorized personnel” in the beginning. Most people had to travel and pay for books, and that was hard on budgets. But now the Internet makes available more good books, old and new, than one person can read in a lifetime. Here are a few examples of where you can find quality reads free of charge...

Get Your Free eBooks Here

There has never been a better, easier, cheaper time to be a bibliophile. If you don’t know that word, that’s OK; this article is for people who like books, too. Here are five sources for free ebooks:

Project Gutenberg is the oldest free, open-source collection of literary works online. It was founded in 1971 by American author Michael S. Hart, who is sometimes credited as the inventor of ebooks. He himself typed into text files the words of public domain books to start the world’s first digital library. Volunteers all over the world joined in, and the Gutenerg Project grew to include millions of works. Today, Gutenberg works are available in plain text, HTML, PDF, EPUB, MOBI, and Plucker formats. It’s still all free, supported by donations.

Project Gutenberg Australia operates under copyright laws different from those in the U. S., so you can find titles here that are not in the public domain in the U. S.

Free Ebooks

Open Library contains almost three million free ebooks. Most are available for immediate reading via the Web, in PDF format, or in EPUB format (for portable e-reader devices). There's a smaller pool of several hundred thousand books, that are available under more restrictive terms, for copyright reasons. Many libraries contribute licenses that they own to Open Library, allowing OL patrons to borrow up to 5 of these books for 2 weeks each. When your borrowing period is up, you are no longer able to access the ebook files you borrowed. If OpenLibrary doesn't have the ebook title you want, you can use their WorldCat catalog to find a real-world library near you that has a copy available for borrowing.

Bartleby has to be the best source for online students, researchers or any other readers who need reference material. They have indexes by authors, titles or subject and access to both contemporary and classic works. Included are Harvard Classics, Gray's Anatomy with engravings, religious books, encyclopedias and other reference books. Also available are poetry, fiction and non-fiction. You can read these ebooks online, and search within the text.

Free Books on Amazon?

Amazon has a Kindle Classics library of free ebooks for the Kindle e-reader. Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, Lewis Carroll, and many other authors familiar to every graduate of high school in the U. S. are available free of charge. Mark Twain’s “On the Decay of The Art of Lying” remains popular among government and public administration majors.

Amazon also has a Top 100 Free Best-Sellers collection. These are the best-selling books whose authors have generously (or shrewdly) made available free for a period of time. You won't find too many big-name authors here, but perhaps some of them will become household names in the near future. Look for books in this area that have lots of positive reviews. (There's a number next to the star rating that indicates how many reviews. Placing your mouse over the little down-arrow between the stars and the number will display a preview of the reviewers' comments.)

If you are a techie, FreeComputerBooks.com offers a huge collection of free ebooks for Computers, Programming, Mathematics, Engineering. Choose from over a dozen top level categories, and over 200 sub-categories.

Finally, we have ManyBooks, which emphasizes tools for digital readers. Utilities that convert one ebook format to another are popular, as are open-source ebook readers for various platforms. Most of the site’s actual ebooks come from other sources such as Project Gutenberg.

And don't forget your local public library. If you are a member, you can often "borrow" ebooks for even new and popular titles. In order to abide by their contracts with publishing houses, the libraries must limit how many copies of a given ebook title can be on loan at once. So if you want a current best-seller, you may have to wait.

Whatever your taste in literature, there is likely an ebook about it out there someplace. Like I said, there has never been a better, easier, cheaper time to be a bibliophile. If you're still not sure what that word means, look it up in a free online dictionary.

Have you used any of these free ebook sources? Do you have another one you'd like to recommend? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "[WOW] Millions of Free Ebooks"

Posted by:

Jon
28 Nov 2016

Thanks Bob. Another very useful column! I'm already a frequent user of my public library's collection of ebooks. I've found a number of books there that aren't in the hard-copy collection. But your collection of ebook sources is great. I had heard about Project Gutenberg but never used it and wasn't aware of the rest.


Posted by:

J
28 Nov 2016

I use the free Amazon Kindle books. It's easy and I've found a number of new authors that I enjoy. You have to download the Kindle app, but it's easy after that. You also have to wade through various genres of books, but sometimes you find a treasure in an area you would never usually use. I also use BookBub. When you sign up, you select genres that you like to read and they send you an email every day with suggestions of free and low price ($1.99 at most) that are available, usually from Amazaon. Scribd.com also has free books, but it takes a bit of work to find them. They prefer you purchase a subscription that allows you three books a month, with others free. Thanks for the other suggestions, Bob!


Posted by:

john
28 Nov 2016

Another source - mainly academic articles - is JStor. While a 'membership' is required for downloading a significant number in a month, many libraries and institutions have memberships you can use. (In my case, there was a membership for alumni of my college.)


Posted by:

Vince Ferriols
28 Nov 2016

I use overdrive.com for library books. I will try some of the ones you list. Thanks


Posted by:

Irwin S Siegel
28 Nov 2016

I am the librarian in a 55 and older community and residents get books to loan at no cost for any period of time. We rely on donations of money or books to keep the library going. After checking all the sites you have listed I find that they would be of no use as our residents want recent popular fiction books not in electronic form. Thanks for the information.


Posted by:

dc
28 Nov 2016

Thanks Bob, your articles are so useful in such a wide spectrum.
Much appreciated.


Posted by:

Karena
28 Nov 2016

http://www.loyalbooks.com has public domain ebooks and audiobooks - I can't even imagine how many.


Posted by:

D.V.N. Sarma
29 Nov 2016

How about Archive?


Posted by:

Rick
29 Nov 2016

How about audio books are they also availabe at these locations?


Posted by:

Graham
29 Nov 2016

Subscribe to Bookbub, they will send you an email every day with books in your chosen category, most of them are free to read on your kindle or P.C.


Posted by:

CtPaul
29 Nov 2016

For decades I practically lived in public libraries. I also took monthly trips to Manhattan searching esoteric book shops for sacred tomes of yester-years. People at the libraries and book stores were my friends... what little social interaction I had came from these visits.

The internet - with its double-edged sword - has killed all that. Oh, I am a senior citizen now and less physically and financially able than I was 20 years ago, and it is nice to be able to call up nearly every book ever written and have it appear on my pc screen, but something has been lost. I seem to have traded actual living friends for ease of access to the works of both the living and the dead.

I still have almost every paperback that I ever bought. Cartons of sci fi, sociology, and fantasy from the 1950s - the 1990s fill my closets... and then, nothing. Paperbacks from the age of ACE doubles which sold for 50 cents... to large trade sized books in the 1990s that sold for close to $10. How am I to honor these books? I intend to be cremated... should they burn alongside me?

It is a question that I just can't answer.


Posted by:

Chris
30 Nov 2016

Great to see you’re spreading the word on the free resources of books available. Years ago I was delighted to find another infinite source of free stories on the internet. Many people publish their work on sites like AO3 or Archive of Our Own (.org) and Fan Fiction (.net) for fiction based on already existing stories and Fictionpress (.com) for original stories.

The perk for them is the possibility for direct communication with their readers via reviews or even personal messages (on FFN and FP). You can download these stories in formats that fit your e-reader, either directly from the site or via a downloader program. I’m partial to the easy to use and free FanfictionDownloader (.net) that allows you to download in 14 different formats, so most e-readers can be filled with it. Because there’s also a lot of so-called Fandom trash on these sites I recommend to use the sorting options available on the site. Stories with a lot of followers, favorites, kudos or comments are usually the best of the crop. I have read some truly epic stories there and I’m sure everybody can find something to their liking, be it based on Sherlock Holmes, Jane Austen, Tolkien, Manga or original poetry.

Archive of Our Own is ads-free because it’s an initiative of the non-profit Organization for Transformative Works. The other sites I mentioned are commercial, so you’ll see ads unless you block them.

To answer a question one of your followers posed, there are several sites that offer free audio books. There’s LibriVox (.org), OpenCulture (.com) and many others.


Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
30 Nov 2016

Imagine my surprise when I googled the titles of a couple of my Amazon ebooks and discovered that they are being offered FREE by an outfit based in San Marino, Italy! With an alleged 927 downloads, how much lost revenue does that represent for me?

Bob, isn't it likely that many of the authors on these free ebook websites are not there by choice? What can be done about it?

On the other hand, is it possible that one of these sites can sucker you in by boomeranging your online search to simply lure you to their site, where they then switch bait and send you to the general sign-up page for a mere $35 or so per year?

How do they get all these free ebooks? Do they buy them and then offer them for free to their own subscribers?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I doubt they buy anything. More likely they aggregate what they can find on Bittorrent and other illegal "sharing" sites.


Posted by:

Charles
02 Dec 2016

Thanks Bob for answering a question that was bugging me. I wondered why I would have to wait for a library ebook. Now I know. I've used Gutenberg for years and Google and Kindle for a while but thanks for the other resources. I have found a few good ones for religious texts too but sometimes you just want a good read.


Posted by:

John
03 Dec 2016

Don't forget the Baen Free Library. The idea here is that if you get a book for free, maybe you'll buy more. I got hooked on the Ring of Fire series this way.

And, all books are DRM free.

http://www.baen.com/catalog/category/view/s/free-library/id/2012


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