“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss: I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. Of course, I usually get a free lunch at work when there are leftovers – but, I digress. The fact is that, in life, some things are free. Wherever you can get access to the Internet, you can get access to free books. Certainly, if you want to get picky, you could say that the cost of the Internet is not free. While this is technically true, you may already have the Internet, or the ability to access it in a public place. As for free reading – blogs, forums, wikis, and other types of user-generated content can make for excellent reading; however, finding the needle in the haystack of good reading isn’t the easiest thing to do, and the content found is generally shallow, surface reading rather than thorough and comprehensive. Fortunately, there are also many, many reputable online books (or e-books) that are instantaneously available for download to your electronic devices.
Sure, you could go the library – and I definitely don’t advocate against that. However, there are times when you want to have multiple books at once, are stuck somewhere without a book in hand, or want to copy text to some sort of digital media. Furthermore, electronic reading devices are great for the many ebooks that are unpublished by a traditional publisher, out of copyright, or simply esoteric. If you still want the physical book, you can find solace in the fact that most digital books will allow you to read the entire first chapter without buying the book – allowing you to make a knowledgeable purchase (you awesome frugalista, you).
If you don’t have an e-book reader,you aren’t alone. According to Pew Research, only about 12% of adults do. However, many of these books can be read on a cell phone (think: stuck in a doctor’s office with no good magazine), or read on the computer.
Although there are many digital book hosting websites, the sites below are the most comprehensive, cross-platform, and of the highest quality.
The Gutenberg Project
The Gutenberg Project has thousands of books that are now out of print. These include the classics, and many beloved favorites. All of the books are viewable online, downloadable, or viewable on any mobile device. All books are free. http://www.gutenberg.org/
Amazon Kindle free books
The site that originally started out as an online bookstore has grown to include many different types of merchandise – but hasn’t forgotten its first love. Through their Kindle app (and web interface), you have the ability to read tons of classics – and first generation books that are given away for a limited time.
Already logged into Google and want to save your favorite books in the cloud? Google books works best for this. They store your books in an online library, and seamlessly integrate onto many devices.
While Scribd is not exactly a repository for bookstore printed books, there are many books, articles, and other reading material that can be sent to your mobile device or read online. You can even upload your own material to the community, or use it for private hosting.
Scribd is a likely contender for books on ministry or devotionals. Don’t see one you like? Create your own.
Smashwords / obooko
Really, Smashwords and Obooko are two of the same types of beasts. Like Scribd, anyone can upload an ebook, and these probably won’t be found in your brick and mortar store. However, unlike Scribd, these sites are solely dedicated to e-books. Obooko (as pictured above) has every book for free, whereas you may find some that have a price on Smashwords.
Onwards and upwards
I love e-books, but I wouldn’t say that I am a fanatic. I still love the feel and touch of the printed book. However, ebooks have their place in the world, and it seems there will be many more to come. The next generation will be encompassed with digital books – from in the school setting, to the possible and unfortunate demise of the public library (except those that are open to high-tech). Where we are heading is unknown, but what is known is that everyone, who has access to the Internet, can sit back, relax, and enjoy reading a good story. No excuses!
Now to you, dear reader. What say you?
- Do you have a digital book reader?
- If yes, where do you get most of your digital books?
- If no, why?
- When was the last time you went to the library (outside of academic reasons)?
“Daily Number: Own E-Book Readers.” Pew Research Center. Web. 21 Jan. 2012. <http://pewresearch.org/databank/dailynumber/?NumberID=1275>.