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Free E-Book Resources

While the market for E-Readers has exploded in the past year, there are still concerns about purchasing them. Some worry that they won’t like reading on the screen (or simply will miss the feel of a book in their hand). Others are uncertain as to how often they’d use it – are beach vacations with all the sand? Will reading in the bathtub (a personal favorite of mine) result in a slip of the hand?

One of the biggest concerns I have read about is whether the Nook, Kindle, or other E-reader is worth it, if you don’t buy a lot of books. So, I wanted to take a few minutes to discuss some of the locations you might find free e-books. Some of these resources will have more books than others, and some may have mostly classics or books off the beaten path. I fully expect the resources for free or discounted books to increase as more and more people buy E-readers, but here are a few resources to get you started:

1. Barnes & Noble or Amazon: Each has a free book section (B&N changes periodically), and at least B&N has promotional offers periodically (for 5 weeks this summer, they’re offering a free book each week when you download it in stores.

2. Borders: Borders will soon open a section solely for ebooks, promising not to be tied to any particular device.

July 10, 2010 update: The Borders Ebook Store is now open. Most, if not all, books can be downloaded in pdf and epub formats. There is over 1.5 million free ebooks here, many of which are classics or non-English books. With such a large number, I just wish there were better search functions to make browsing the free ebooks easier.

3. Your local library: Download your chosen book and upload to your E-reader. Instructions for the Nook are here.

4. GoodReads: A website for keeping track of books you’ve read or would like to read, and a method of sharing reviews with friends. You can check out other people’s bookshelves for recommendations and discover new authors. If you click on the “explore” link, there is a tab for “e-books.” While there are a lot of classics on there, there are also some more modern choices, such as G. Norman Lippert’s James Potter series (a play off of Harry Potter).

5. Google Books: Most of you know that you can search and view a limited preview of many books through Google Books. However, at least some of the full view books (from what I’ve seen, mostly the classics) are download-able. Simply search for the book or topic you’d like, selecting full view only. When your results come up, click on the book you’d like to read. When the first page comes up, you’ll have a download option in the upper right corner, allowing you to choose between pdf and epub format.

6. Gutenberg: Offers free copies of the classics in ePub, mobi, HTML and simple text formats.

7. Smashwords: New or unknown authors offer free copies of their books. Offers multiple formats: .pdf, .epub, .rfl, .mobi

E-readers & their accepted formats:

  • Nook: .pdf, .epub
  • Kindle: .mobi, .pdf
  • Sony: .rfl, .pdf, .epub
  • I-Pad: .epub, .mobi (though an app)
  • Kobo: .pdf, .epub
  • Libre: .pdf, .epub
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