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Free (e)books for all!
July 30, 2012 - Ilsa Matthes
I’ve always wanted an eReader. Ever since they came out I’ve imagined myself reading The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on one, or maybe a book on native plants while advising Captain Kirk that eating those purple berries “is not logical.”
I still don’t have an eReader. I don’t have a spaceship either. I do, however, have a computer with eReader software installed.
There are a number of choices in the free ebook reader game. I’ve listed some of the big players in the link section to the right.
My personal favorite is the Free Kindle Reading Apps collection. There’s a version for almost every family of computers, tablets, and phones. There’s also the MOBIPOCKET eBook Reader, the NOOK Reading Apps from Barnes & Noble, Sony’s Reader Apps, and many more. Which reader you choose is really a matter of preference.
I’m not saying we should get rid of traditional books. I love books. The feel, the smell, the crack of the spine. I love book stores and libraries. Ever since I was a little girl I have collected antique tomes. There are some real gems in my collection, but touching the pages of a book published in 1883 is a delicate operation.
Luckily, many of the books in my collection have been digitized. As far as I know, clicking has never torn a page, and many classic books are free to download.
If a book is old enough for it’s copyright to expire it becomes public domain. In the United States that means (with some exceptions) that a book must be published before 1923, not renewed by by copyright extension laws, or be a work that was not published before 2003 written by someone who died 70 years before the last New Year’s day.
If you think copyright law is a confusing mess, you’re right. And we’re just talking about books.
In any event, there are a few groups that have taken on the challenge of sifting through the legal muck to bring classic books to the public. Notable groups include Project Gutenberg (www.gutenberg.org), the Internet Archive (www.archive.org), and ManyBooks.net (www.manybooks.net).
All of these sites allow books to be downloaded in a variety of formats to be read on computers or eReaders. No registration, no subscription, no cost.
While I’m discussing free, public domain books I need to mention one more website: LibriVox (www.librivox.org). LibriVox is a website providing free audiobooks recorded by volunteers.
In college I used LibriVox frequently. If I had a classic book to read and was running short on time before a test I could burn a CD of a few chapters, hop in the car, and “study” while I was running errands. It’s a fantastic service and makes books available to anyone who can hear.
Another reason that LibriVox is so great is that there are books in foreign languages. When I took Spanish in high school and college I didn’t have any problems reading, but listening was excruciatingly difficult. Since LibriVox works with the public domain ebook sites I listed earlier, it’s not uncommon to find audio and text to follow along.
Nothing will ever replace the feel of a book in your hands, and of course your local library offers hundreds of books you can read or listen to for free. However, even traditional libraries are beginning to see the benefits of digital books. The Great Lakes Digital Library (http://digitalmedia.gldl.info) is just one example of libraries embracing the trend.
I’m not telling you to forsake your paperbacks, but understand your options. An ebook could be a free way for you to get your reading fix instantly from the comfort of your own home.
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