How to find free books online

One of the great things about mobile devices is that they allow us access to content 24/7 and nowhere is that more evident than in the world of books. Whether we are young or old, our ability to turn on a tablet or a smartphone and pick up a book right where we left off is one of the great joys of the digital age.

Making this new literary freedom even more enticing is the enormous number of books that are now available in digital format. From Barnes & Noble’s “world’s largest bookstore” to niche sites like Feedbooks, millions of books can be downloaded and enjoyed on virtually any connected device with a screen.

And another bonus: many titles are free. From classics such as Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities to first-time works from undiscovered authors, there are now well over a million titles that can be downloaded completely free of charge. If you’re interested in sampling this literary treasure trove, here are a few places to look:

Google Books

It’s been estimated that there are around 130 million unique books in the world and Google intends to scan all of them! By the end of 2011 it was well on its way, with over 20 million books already digitized and thousands more added every week.

Not all of these books are available to read online. Google has been bogged down by numerous copyright claims from authors and publishers, and it appears that its goal to create the world’s first complete digital library has been stalled, at least for now.

However, the books that Google can make available – all 3 million of them – are accessible through the Google Bookstore, where users can download reading apps and peruse the huge catalog of both free and for-sale titles. The eBookstore includes a “Top Free” section, but don’t feel restricted to the 100 titles that are featured there. There are over a million more free titles, so search away until you find one – or several – that you like.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg offers over 38,000 free e-books for download to a PC, Kindle, iPad, Android or other portable device, and over 100,000 additional free titles through its partners and affiliates. The site has useful sections highlighting recent additions, and a Top 100 section, which features the most popular downloads and authors.

Although Project Gutenberg is much smaller that Google Books, it’s often easier to navigate and there isn’t the distraction of having to scroll through thousands of for-sale books to find the free ones that you are looking for.

Open Library

Open Library is a off-shoot of the non-profit Internet Archive, which was established with the lofty goal of creating a publically-available digital record of every book ever published. In the same way that Wikipedia relies on user contributions to build its online encyclopedia, Open Library invites users to add books, fix typos, or do whatever else they can to preserve this public record of the world’s literary offerings.

Open Library collaborates with e-book distributor OverDrive to make hundreds of thousands of e-books available through over 11,000 public lending libraries. Books can be downloaded as a PDF, read in plain text form, or even sent to a Kindle. 

And more

And don’t forget Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Although they are primarily in the business of selling paid books, they also have huge selections of free books. Both companies offer free e-reading apps for iOS, Android and BlackBerry devices, and they have the added benefit of being able to sync both your library and your current reading selection across multiple platforms.

Do you have a favorite source for free online books? Share it with The Online Mom!

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