The Top Sites for Free E-Books, Part I

One way to save money on your reading material is by loading free e-books into your e-book reader. It’s amazing how many of them are available.

One of the best things about electronic book readers is that you can get access to literally thousands of free e-books. If you’re an inveterate reader, this is akin to heaven on Earth, especially for fans of the classics.

Not only do you get enough to read from here to doomsday, you can save an amazing amount of money in the process! Admittedly, you do have to absorb the initial outlay for the reader itself… unless you can finagle it as gift. Even if you can’t, you can get a good, solid reader for as little as $139.

So let’s look at where you can get access to all these free books. There are a surprising number of free book sites, as it turns out… but here are the ones we like the most.

The Proprietary Sites

The most obvious sources for free e-books are the primary purchasing sites for the leading e-reader brands, particularly the Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and even the Microsoft i-Pad (which has an awesome e-reader app).

Not only do most of these readers come pre-loaded with a classic or two, usually Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, there are generally dozens or hundreds of public domain books available on such sites, easily downloaded and total free.

…And Then Some

Occasionally, you’ll also come across a contemporary book released under a creative commons license by an author trying to drum up business in their other books. Science fiction writers Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross, for example, are well known for doing this — and both are well worth reading.

Be forewarned, however, that most proprietary e-readers have proprietary book formats that can only be read on their platforms. This is certainly true of the Kindle, Nook, and Sony e-readers.

Project Gutenberg

You may recall that Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type, which is largely credited with the easy transmission of knowledge in the pre-Internet era, and with the near-universal literacy the Western World enjoys today. Well, his intellectual inheritors have created Project Gutenberg, named in his honor.

Project Gutenberg is not just the oldest digital library in the world (it was founded in 1971), it’s also the biggest. As of November 2010, it contained 34,000 public domain texts of all kinds, from the most pedestrian textbooks to literary classics by Stoker, Poe, Shakespeake, and… well, just about anyone you can think of.

All these e-books can be downloaded in .TXT format, which works on any e-reader or computer platform, but they can also be downloaded in a variety of other non-proprietary formats, including NTML, EPUB, MOBI and PDF.

Project Gutenberg’s only the start. Join us next time to learn about some more great publishers of free e-books!