Many of the books mentioned on BestQuest are available free of charge as ebooks you can download. All you need is to choose a format (a standard is epub, but there are others) and acquire good book reader software for your platform and device. I use LY Mesentsev’s BookReader, available from Apple’s AppStore for a small fee (http://macbookreader.com/wp/). I convert formats with Calibre http://calibre-ebook.com/. ebooks are no substitute for printed books but sometimes they are more convenient.
These are not in any sense ‘pirated’ or ‘illegal’ titles, a myth engendered by those trying to sell absurdly overpriced books restricted further by DRM. So called ‘legal’ copies of books add to the tendency towards illiteracy observable in countries like America, and aid also in the drive to undermine civil rights, protections and freedoms (and you thought Big Brother was just a story). Copyright enforcement is about making money, not about reading or open discussion.
While a search such as “free ebook downloads” will give a huge variety of sites apparently offering everything you could want, some are better than others. Beware of so called ‘pirate’ sites, and many torrent sites, which include those trying to sell you ‘memberships’, who ask you to ‘register’, record perhaps your email address and other details about you, and are part of the unrelenting American obsession with making money that fuels so much internet traffic. If you proceed with caution you may find what you are looking for; there are some genuine sharers left. Following are some sites I found useful. Other places are good torrent sites, which do exist still, and Usenet.
This is a Russian site (but an English language version). Russia has different copyright laws to other countries, the State apparently buying rights and making them available to authorised outlets. The site calls itself “the largest ebook library” and does have a huge range. Titles are sometimes available in languages other than English. You can also buy titles through the site. Like all sites offering a free service it is hijacked by hackers from time to time. You could also try this similar site:
Roy Glashan’s Library is an Australian site which offers a strange juxtaposition of Greek and Roman classics and early writers of detective fiction and SF and fantasy. These are obviously his favourites, and titles are restricted by copyright laws. Titles are offered in epub for download or can be read online in an exceptionally clear format, often with original cover art.
A Canadian site offering out of copyright books (In Canada; check if your country’s laws are similar). Offers good scans, complete collections of some authors, and is in full development.
Forgotten books offers an onscreen reading experience, a print service (books are sent from London post free) or a pdf download of titles. Titles are out of copyright ones, and include classic lit, Greek and Roman lit and a big range of scholarly works on many subjects.
Free ebooks, 20,000 of them. This library offers a wide range of categories, including quite a lot of non fiction on many subjects, from Victorian authors to modern ones who have made their work freely available. All the classic authors are here, in good, well laid out editions in a choice of formats. The site also offers some useful links for further titles.
This is a site maintained by the University of Adelaide in Australia. All titles are non copyright ones in Australia. Layout is clear, starting with an index of authors on the front page, going from there to provide information about each author, and a list of works available. There is a clear and legible HTML version you can read in your browser, or titles can be downloaded, usually in epub format.
Archive org makes out of copyright material available to all. The site includes books and other printed matter, audio and video material (including many movies). Book links are to copies once held in American libraries and later scanned and include marks and imperfections. From a sidebar on the left readers can use a proprietary reader to read online, or choose from a variety of formats to download to their computer. Pdfs may be large files. This is a huge and valuable resource.
This site has over 29,000 titles, all available for free in a variety of download formats. Many of these are out of copyright titles few would want to read again, but it is a fascinating place to explore the literature of yesterday, and all the classics are here. Where available original cover art is offered, and the site is exceptionably clear and easy to follow.
Bookyards offers 20,000 titles, and as well helps you publish your own ebook. About half the authors here are those who have uploaded their books to Bookyards, but there is a fair sampling of out of copyright classics, usually offered in pdf format.
A huge resource of over 300,000 books on all subjects, all with copyright clearance. Books are offered in a variety of download formats and can also be read in a browser window while online. Features a lot of academic titles as well as the usual classics and some titles made available for free by publishers and authors who have waived copyright.
A site devoted to texts on religion, philosophy and ancient Greek and Roman authors. Some ancient authors are available in the original language. All texts can be read online, and can be copied and pasted into a text editor. There is a DVD available for sale of all titles on the site.
Those interested in books should make sure they read (again) George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four (1948) and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (1953), two novels which describe a world without books, and how easily they can be eradicated, and how closely linked reading as an activity is to personal responsibility and democratic freedom. Both books can be found at sites on my list. This is why freely available books are important, and any attempt to restrict them through high sales prices or DRM is noxious. Briefly, reading helps people make up their minds about issues they encounter daily in their society, much more so than media such as news reporting, which confirms their prejudices, or video, which emotionally sways them, only for a brief period. This sense of discrimination and evaluation is an effect all reading has, whether it be a work of philosophy, a detective story or a comic book.
©2015 Original material copyright Phillip Kay. Images courtesy internet resources and Creative Commons. Please inform post author of any violation.