Lord knows how much I love a good, old paper book, but I can’t deny the convenience of having immediate access to almost any title I want, available within seconds on my computer, smartphone or e-book reader. E-books tend to be substantially cheaper than traditional books, too, but if you’re an avid reader like me, those costs can quickly add up just the same. In this post, I’ll share my favourite go-to sources for completely free, legally downloadable e-books.
Internet Archive was founded in 1996 as an organisation dedicated to providing free access to a range of digital materials. Apart from books, here you can find countless magazines, videos and audio recordings – literally millions of them. If you’re searching for books only, select ‘text’ in the Media Type menu, and check the ‘always available’ box in the Availability section. You can additionally filter results by language, topic, publication date etc.
Once you’ve found the book you wanted, you can read the scanned version on the website, or download your own copy in various digital formats, such as PDF, epub, or mobi for Kindle devices.
Project Gutenberg is an online library founded by Michael Hart, a pioneer of e-book publishing. Similar to Internet Archive, you can search books by author, subject, title, etc.
You can read your chosen book online, or download it in a format that works best for you. I should add that, unfortunately, Kindle files often come with a lot of formatting errors, so brace yourself for that.
This volunteer-based project builds on the work of the previously mentioned sources, with extra attention paid to formatting, typesetting and, most importantly, proofreading. Whereas a download from Project Gutenberg may come with loads of errors, files released by Standard Ebooks look very professionally designed. You can browse all titles by subject and keyword.
Kindle was one of the first e-book readers available on the market. Launched by Amazon, it’s still probably the best one out there. You don’t have to buy the device, though, as Kindle is now also available as a free app that you can download and use on your smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. While you do need to pay for most titles, you can use its internal search engine to look for free e-books, of which there are a great many.
Unlike Internet Archive and Project Gutenberg which offer mostly older titles with expired copyright, on Amazon you can often find brand new e-books, temporarily offered for free, usually for promotional purposes. There are specialised websites where you can find out what new free content is available, such as eBookDaily.
Kindle can be great for language learners, as you can use its in-built dictionary. Tapping or clicking on a word will give you the corresponding dictionary entry and/or translation. Additionally, newer versions of the Kindle device are integrated with Wikipedia and Google Translate, which is most practical.
Is there another e-book website you’d like to recommend? Tell us about it in comments section below!
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