Disclaimer: There are lots of ways to get free books that aren’t strictly legal or ethical. I’m not going to discuss those methods here. I figure, if you can afford to buy an ebook reader or tablet, you can afford to pay for books that are within copyright. And if you can’t afford them, you can read legitimate free books. End of lecture. Back to our regularly scheduled blog entry.
Some of the techniques I discuss may work for devices other than Android tablets/phones and Nooks (e.g., the idevice of your dreams or Kindles of various flavors). Since we’re talking free here, it’s probably worth a try if you haven’t already done so.
Where to Get Free Ebooks:
First free book source: Project Gutenberg (Gutenberg:Project Gutenberg Needs Your Donation – Gutenberg). I put Project Gutenberg first because I have been getting ebooks there for more than 15 years. (Really? Oh yeah!) I used to download books from there and put them on my Palm Pilot back in the mid-late 90s.
Gutenberg has public domain books, meaning those that contemporary writers make available for free, and those that are no longer in copyright. The latter are old books … quite old in many cases. But do yourself a favor and try out a few of them. John Carter may not have been a box office success, but the original book, A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was a smash pulp fiction hit. (Burroughs later wrote the Tarzan series.) I deliberately put the donation page link above, since if you’ve ever gotten a book from PG, it would be swell if you could make a small donation to them (truly, any amount is helpful), and if you haven’t and are just starting out, keep in mind that free is never truly free. Someone pays … with their cash, or their time … to make free stuff available. If you’re on a smartphone, here is their mobile link: ProjGutbg Mobile.
Project Gutenberg Australia has a different selection of ebooks: http://gutenberg.net.au/
Books at PG are available in a multitude of formats. Choose the format that works with your ereader. Post a question in comments if you need specific help on this matter.
Barnes and Noble: They have a varying selection of free ebooks. To find them, go to the main B&N web page (http://www.barnesandnoble.com) and enter $0.00 in the Search box. In addition, B&N has Free Fridays for Nook books, which offers a commercial quality book for free every Friday (http://bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com/t5/The-NOOK-Blog/bg-p/Unbound). Often these are first books in a popular author’s ongoing series (also known as “hooks”). If you don’t have a Nook, you can still read Nook books on your Android phone/tablet by downloading the free Nook app from Google Play.
Amazon: Amazon keeps some free ebooks here (http://www.amazon.com/b/ref=amb_link_355831402_49?ie=UTF8&node=2245146011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=left-1&pf_rd_r=1Y9GECX534NEQHZ5Q1MW&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1374232782&pf_rd_i=1286228011). You probably need their free Kindle app to read them (available at Google Play or the Amazon App Store). They also link to Open Library, which I just discovered while writing this blog entry: (http://openlibrary.org/), and the Internet Archive (http://archive.org/details/texts).
Google Play Books has free books here: https://play.google.com/store/books/collection/topselling_free.
Still with me? Good, ’cause there are still more resources for free books.
Check your local public library‘s web site. You may have to click around a bit, but they typically have a place to download free public domain ebooks. Here is what I found for Nook-compatible free ebooks from Baltimore County Public Library: (http://maryland.lib.overdrive.com/EBE656E6-BA49-4BA2-9DF4-5C1D30C3E31C/10/336/en/PublicDomainCollection.htm)
Kobo has a link to free ebooks: http://www.kobobooks.com/free_ebooks.
University of Penn has a link to free ebooks: http://digital.library.upenn.edu/books/.
Literature.org has free ebooks that open in your browser, but you can save those files and use a utility like Ecub or Calibre to make a compatible ebook for your ereader or ebook app: http://www.literature.org/authors/
University of Virginia has the VIRGO site for ebooks: http://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog?f[digital_collection_facet]=UVa+Text+Collection&facet.limit=500&id=digital_collection_facet&sort=date_received_facet+desc&width=490.
Memoware has free ebooks: http://www.memoware.com/
And that’s all the links that I have handy. I have omitted links to self-published ebooks at this time, but there are plenty out there, and some self-publishers are fine writers. And some are not. 🙂
Library ebooks I classify separately, since these books technically are “borrowed” and “returned.” The borrowing (checkout and checkin) are typically handled by separate software.
With Nook ereaders, the process is convoluted: you download Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) and register for an Adobe ID. Connect your Nook to that computer and authorize the device with ADE. Sign up for an account with your local public library, which is typically then linked to the Overdrive library management system. Browse at your library, check out your books, download them, then fire up ADE. The downloaded book shows up in ADE (if the stars are aligned properly), then you just drag it to your Nook. Boom, go to My Documents on the Nook, check for new content if you don’t see it, and then you should be good to go. There are more detailed threads on this at B&N’s Nook forums.
Ironically, that process is more complicated than if you have a plain old Android phone or tablet. If you do, simply download the Overdrive app to your phone/tablet from Google Play. Link the app to an account with Adobe (this step, along with the ADE steps above, are all about DRM, so it’s not really avoidable). Select “Get Books” from the menu (first time through you select your local public library), which takes you to your library web site. Find your book, check it out and download it, and there it is in your Overdrive app (which is also an ebook reader app).
If you finish your book before the due date, kindly consider checking it back in manually to make it available to the next person. Library ebooks often have long waiting lists, so the nicer we all play together, the more it benefits us all.
How to Get Books onto Your Device:
Here are some briefly described ways to get ebooks onto your reader/phone/tablet:
My favorite: Plug it in – plug the device into the PC, drag the ebook to a folder on the device.
Copy to microSD card: Remove microSD card, place in SD adapter, then into slot in a card reader, desktop or laptop system with a SD slot. Drag the books to the correct folder (My Documents on a Nook microSD card, or typically Downloads on a tablet or smartphone). Open the book with a compatible reader (Aldiko will open many formats, Nook opens most epubs, Kindle opens Kindle format books and should open mobi format books too.)
Direct Download: Browse to one of the websites listed above on your phone/tablet, and download the book directly to your device. Ebooks are typically small, just a couple of hundred kilobytes, so downloading a book or two doesn’t use a lot of data. But if there is any concern, just turn on WiFi and download that way.
Didn’t want to just end there so abruptly, so feel free to comment if you have found another good source of free ebooks, or if you have any questions about reading ebooks on a Nook or Android device.