E-Books, Free books and audiobooks. Oh My!

(Last week, a friend of mine confessed that she had no idea where to find a good selection for her eReader. I’ve done a little digging and these are my favourites)

So, you betrayed your principles, the printed page and all that is good in the world and acquired an eReader.*

You’ve tinkered with the settings, brightness and contrast.

You’ve oohed and aahed at the ‘amazing’ screensavers and marvelled at the glare free screen.

You’ve downloaded the free copy of Winnie the Pooh from the linked book store (where available).

Now it’s time to build up some sort of collection.

So, I love buying books…

There are a number of sites/marketplaces/stores where e-Books –  in a variety of different formats – are fairly accessible, even to the most technically challenged reader. Possibly the best known are Amazon and Apple, but most book stores and their related web sites now have ebook sections.

For some incredibly inconvenient reason, there are dozens of different formats, so bear in mind that you need to research which will work for you.
How annoying.
I hate when these ‘format wars’ come into play. Sure, part of the battle is to find a suitable working format, but for the most part, I’m pretty sure this overwhelmingly  impacts the consumer negatively. Like if you had a kindle and then got an iPad, you can’t (couldn’t?) swop your books over? Grrr.

From a quick search online, and after chatting with my mates, there are two primary complaints to be heard over and over again – eBooks cost too much, and the choice is limited.
With regards to the latter, I think that time will be the only solution. The longer eBooks are a viable option, the more books will be released in varying formats. And here in the UK, the emphasis is till very much on printed books. As the eBook market grows, more stores will offer a greater range.
However, the former is a little more tricky. See, me, I like books. I actually prefer reading a page over a screen. And I value having a *physical* copy on my shelves. So, I wouldn’t want to pay full price for a virtual book – I just wouldn’t feel like it’s good value for money. I’m aware that’s probably a little ridiculous – same author, same work etc. Besides, I’m always terrified everything will get wiped in some unimaginably horrible home IT catastrophe.
I expect that eBooks will follow the same path as music. Virtual albums originally cost the same as a CD version, and are now often considerably cheaper. Course it took years for that to start…

…but I prefer when I get them for free

So it’s good to know that there are some fantastic book shop alternatives, offering public domain books, audio books and more FOR FREE – my favourite price for any book! (Course this is just to get you started. A definitive list would take forever and a day!)

Your Local Libraries – That’s right folks, chances are, your library is providing or preparing to provide ebooks and you never even knew it! Recently, there have been new deals worked out between libraries and publishing houses so if you haven’t thought to check before – now might be the perfect time!

Project Gutenberg – I can’t possibly promote this site enough. I think I tell every person I can about it!
Created in 1971 to digitise and archive cultural works, in order to encourage access to eBooks; there are now over 10 different affiliated sites (i.e. Project Gutenberg Australia). All the books submitted to PG are in the ‘Public Domain’ or out of copy write, so there are just tons of classics! I love the ideology and concepts that drive PG. Mostly, I love being able to access over 34 000  books (in multiple formats). So regardless of your eReader, you should be able to find something you can use!

LibriVox – Since 2005, this site provides a free online audio library, with a collection of over 4200 audio books as of the beginning of this year. Run by volunteers; any one with an interest can contribute by recording excerpts/chapters/books for the site. The site is predominantly orientated towards English language content, though slowly other languages are starting to become available.
In all honesty, the quality of the audio books varies – some are as polished as professional audio books, while others are …not, with gaps, or mumbled parts.
There is an easy work around for that. Download an audio book, and if you think that you could read it better – do so!!

Google Books – Either the best or worst thing to happen to literature, depending on whom you ask. Google books provides full scans of books, in some cases regardless of whether the author approves. Have to admit, it’s still pretty useful, if a bit murky.

Open Content Alliance – Created in part as a response to the Google Books, this site differs in that it digitises books AFTER receiving permission from the copyright holder. Member of the Open Book Alliance.**

And there are some sites that specialise on particular geographical regions.

Runivers – a not for profit website focused on providing library like access to Russian culture and history. (Slightly controversial this – the site has been criticised for using borrowed content. You’ve been warned. I imagine that if Russian history, literature and culture is your thing, you’ll have been right put off by this addendum…)

Europeana – This is the hub for digitised culture throughout Europe – books, music, art – this site has a little bit of everything. Institutions across the continent have all contributed, and the idea is to bring together European Culture to be accessed by all.

Project Runeberg -Patterned after PG, this specialises in Nordic History.

Anyhoo, these are just a few of the dozens of sites out there, but free from dodgy malware (a worry whenever you look at downloading anything). Feel free to share your favourites in the comments!

*Not phrased thus through jealousy. Honest. My lack of eReader status has left me with no bitterness.

**Collection of book related sites, unified by opposition to the Google Book Settlement. They are working together to avoid a monopoly in the digital marketplace.


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