Today I have a guest post up on iHeartBudgets.net on 3 Reasons Mint.com May Not Be For You. I’m taking my personal financial contrarian viewpoint on the road and taking a crack at one of the most beloved websites in personal finance.
I read. A lot. So much that I won an award in middle school for being an “enthusiastic reader.” I was nominated for the same award again as a senior in high school and was interviewed by the local newspaper. I went through a period of my life where I was going through a title per week. I’ve slowed down a bit since then, but I still finished 30 books last year.
Over the past couple years, I’ve switched increasingly to ebooks. My Sony Reader is smaller than and lighter than hardback books. It is easier to read one-handed while I am donating plasma. While ebooks are generally cheaper than physical books, book buying is an expensive hobby. So I read free ebooks exclusively these days.
But where do you get free ebooks? Sign up for a bunch of newsletters on blogs and get short guides in wonky pdf formats? No thanks. I’m more of a fiction reader myself, and I hate the pdf format.
Free Public Domain Books
Nearly everybody has heard of the Gutenberg project. They have come a long way since it was founded in 1971 to digitize books. Founder Michael Hart‘s original goal was to make available to the general public the 10,000 most consulted books. Today, Project Gutenberg has archived over 42,000 public domain titles. While starting out with just the text format, books can now be downloaded in a variety of formats including HTML, epub, mobi (kindle), and, yes, PDF.
To search Project Gutenberg, go here: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/
MobileRead is a forum devoted to ebooks, ebook readers, and ebook software. They also maintain a library of over 25,000 public domain ebook titles in several languages and file formats. Since it is an open library, there are several duplicate entries, such as three copies of Edwin Abbott’s Flatland.
The MobileRead Ebook Upload Library isn’t as well organized as Project Gutenberg, but they do have some advantages. Some contributors take the time to combine serials into a single file, such as the Barsoom Omnibus that I am currently reading. This file contains all 11 books Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote of his fictional civilization on Mars.
The MobileRead Ebook Upload Library can be found here: http://www.mobileread.com/forums/ebooks.php
Free Independent Authors’ Books
Smashwords is an ebook distributor with their own portal for buying ebooks. Smashwords lets independent authors set their own price for their titles, and free is one of the options. As a publisher I’m not a big fan of the platform because of their insistence on authors submitting Word files.
Free ebooks at Smashwords can be found here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/category/1/newest/0/free/any
Feedbooks has an interesting value proposition, they sell best sellers, public domain works, and allow independent authors to give their books away for free. The system is odd in that you do not upload a file at all, but instead write (or copy & paste) your manuscript directly on their website.
For free ebooks at Feedbooks, go here: http://www.feedbooks.com/original
When Amazon created the Kindle, they faced a dilemma. Book publishers weren’t willing to sell ebooks at a discount from the physical copies, and they needed an incentive for people to buy ebooks for the Kindle. So they created the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform to allow independent authors to sell their ebooks on Amazon.
Amazon doesn’t support price levels below 99 cents, but will match lower prices found elsewhere. For a long time, a common workaround to sell your book for free on Amazon was to sell it for free on Smashwords and Amazon would match the price.
Last year, Amazon created a new service called KDP Select. In exchange for granting Amazon exclusive rights to sell your ebook for 90 days, you can offer up to 5 days of selling your book for free as a promotion to gain visibility.
Each category of ebook maintains a list of top 100 free ebooks, but the top 100 free across all of Amazon can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Kindle-eBooks/b/ref=sa_menu_kbo?ie=UTF8&node=1286228011#
Free Best Sellers
Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble actually sells best sellers for free for their NOOK. Maybe not the current best seller list, but their site currently features over 60,000 titles available for free download from authors such as James Patterson, Lemony Snickett, Anne Rice, and Michael Connelly.
To see the Free NOOK Book list, go here: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s?csrfToken=CwcfMcRGNJvPV5kE5exUoZ7sPVSkO0Th&sort=R&size=90&prc=0&store=EBOOK&view=grid
Kobo Books is Canada’s answer to Amazon. While not as big as the Seattle giant, for some book categories, Kobo outsells Amazon for the Canadian market. Like Barnes & Noble, they have a variety of titles for free from past best sellers, and public domain works. They advertise that they have over 1 million free titles.
Free ebooks on Kobo can be found here: http://www.kobobooks.com/free_ebooks
Everyone knows that they can borrow books for free from their local library. What many don’t realize is that your local library probably has ebooks as well. Borrowing ebooks from the library works just like borrowing paper books from the library. There is limited availability and a finite time you can access the title before it is “returned” and unavailable to be read on your device or renewed.
The libraries usually don’t run the ebook service themselves, but license a company like OverDrive to do it for them. OverDrive is the largest servicer of library ebooks. Check your library’s website or search OverDrive to see if your library is a member.
Amazon also maintains a lending library. The catch is that you have to be an Amazon Prime member. But if you are a member, you can borrow best sellers and KDP Select titles for free to read on your Kindle device or software. KDP Select authors even get paid when you borrow their ebook!
Last but certainly not least is Baen Books. Baen is one of the largest names in the science-fiction & fantasy genre. Baen was one of the first publishers to embrace ebooks and the first to sell DRM-free ebooks. Little known is that they also maintain a “Baen Free Library that allows you to read online or download select titles from their catalog. If you are a Sci-Fi fan, it’s worth taking a look.
Baen Free Library: http://www.baen.com/library/intro.asp
Do you read free ebooks? What is your favorite source?