No one likes to read things on the computer. The look and feel of a book, the interaction with the pages … who would take a screen over that?
BUT, when you get a tablet computer or a Kindle reader things change – they are so nice to read on. You can set the font size and line spacing, set the brightness, use the instant dictionary (which is very handy if you are not a native English speaker). And you can carry 1000’s of books around with you to pick from, including comics (gotto love Asterix!), magazines and books. The tablet is easier to hold, requires no effort keeping the pages open, and sits nicely on your lap.
This is why ebooks are now outselling their paper counterparts.
There is a huge number of free books available, and more being added every month. But for right now, these books are somewhat scattered around different websites. Below is a rough guide, from September 2011
Even paper aficionado Ajahn Jayasaro says he’s converted to ebooks!
Ebooks come as PDF files – this is the old system that is being outdated now. Especially academic topics like architecture, psychology, biology, medicine – vast resources are available for free.
Newer formats mostly center around .epub and .mobi – though there are lots of other formats; sometimes called the Tower of E-babel.
Unless you have specialist reasons, you don’t need to look at any other formats of ebook. Though apparently .txt files are welcome in Bangkwang!
*For Buddhism, the first place to start is Buddhanet.net :
This enormous resource – the biggest web presence for Buddhism in the world, is run almost single-handedly by Ajahn Pannyavaro. Please consider a donation when he comes to Thailand as there are many costs involved in maintaining this kind of website.
*A handy place to start for other books is Neotake : http://www.neotake.com/
Note that you can select from the left hand side if you want to search only for free books, or include paid sites also. It can link you to many specialist sites such as the British Medical Institute.
*Probably the best resource for both searching and browsing is Many Books : http://www.manybooks.net/
Most of the titles are rather old, so you won’t find the latest Tina Fey book here. But you can browse by topic and find some incredible titles. Fabulous. Be sure to click on Ebook Format on the right hand side to pick what format you want to use.
*For spiritual stuff – the Sacred Text Archive is unbeatable:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/index.htm – mindboggling – you could spend a lifetime with just this site!
*Mobile Read Forums has a lot of free books slightly more from the modern era. You can search for particular books here, but best is to browse through and see what they have.
*Technical manuals and text books :- EBOOKEE is very good: http://ebookee.org/
*Filecrop is a strange one. It simply searches several filehosting sites, so all sorts of things can be found here, including newer titles. It takes a while to figure out how to use it, without signing up for the paid premium accounts. It is all for free if you are patient…
http://www.filecrop.com/ Use this one for searching, not browsing.
*Free Book Spot is simply awesome. Browse by the genres on the right hand side of the window: http://www.freebookspot.es/Default.aspx although again it can take a while to get the hang of how to download.
*Free Ebooks also has a fabulous browsable database: http://www.free-ebooks.net/
*Open Culture has a lot of great stuff, including audio books and many free online courses in different topics: http://www.openculture.com/
*Smashwords is a good search engine and browser – you can filter for free ebooks if you choose : http://www.smashwords.com/
In short, if you are after modern new titles, Amazon and such places are always going to be quick and easy, with safe payment methods. However, there is a huge amount of free and specialist resources – you could spend a month just browsing the above sites! But be warned, you can find yourself spending more time looking for good books to read, than actually reading them!
Also note that a lot of sites actually sell books that are legally available for free download from other places.
Any other good ebook sources? Do leave a comment if you know any.