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<firstimage=”http://www.makeuseof.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/bookread_thumb.jpg”>completely free ebooksIt’s hard to judge the state of play with ebooks. There are conflicting standards, various formats, multiple cost models, and an awful lot of material which simply doesn’t find its way out to the world as a result.

I’m going to cut through some of the confusion, and show you how to get, keep, and consume free ebooks. It’s a fairly quick skate across the surface though, so you’ll need to do some more work yourself.

Just to clarify, ebooks, for the sake of this discussion, are books which are available electronically, rather than printed on dead trees, and which can be read on an electronic device of some sort. And completely free ebooks, just now, are those which are legitimately available for free. Other options exist. We all know that.

Getting Free Ebooks

completely free ebooks

The largest source of out of copyright ebooks is Project Gutenberg. If you want a book from before your parents were born, this is the place to start.

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Books are available in a number of formats, categories and languages.

For a slightly different view of what’s available, you also might like to take a look at manybooks. They have a more modern approach to things. Some categories are not appropriate for everyone. Take care.

free ebooks online

If you’re looking for some niche products, then you need to use the web to search things out. For instance, the nice people at Baen Books have a free ebook library for science fiction.

There are plenty of other options out there for broad or narrow fields of study. Google is your friend. Be cautious of the sites that require you to sign up, and watch what you download.

Managing Free Ebooks

Once you have some sources for ebooks, you need to give some thought to taking care of them. If you are ever going to have a decent stash of electronic tomes, then you need to think about how to go about it. I’m going to quickly show you how to make use of a product called Calibre, which has already been covered in some depth by Simon Calibre - Mighty eBook Management Software Calibre - Mighty eBook Management Software Read More and Justin Download Entire Newspapers or Blogs To Your eBook Reader With Calibre Download Entire Newspapers or Blogs To Your eBook Reader With Calibre Read More . Calibre is huge. We’re just going to nibble off a little corner.

Specifically, I want to show you how to organise your books, and then how to convert them. You’ll see why by the time we get to the end of this.

Organise

Let’s quickly grab a few books from a couple of sites first: War & Peace from Gutenberg, The Body Snatcher from ManyBooks, and the highly recommended Sheepfarmer’s Daughter via Baen.

Download and install Calibre.

free ebooks online

Start Calibre, and from the main toolbar click on the Add Books”¦ button.

Browse to wherever you downloaded the books, and add them one by one.

Once the books are imported, you’ll be able to see them all listed in the main screen, and you can sort and filter in a number of different ways. The important thing here though is to add whatever metadata is appropriate, such as the name of the author, and the title. Calibre does its best to work out what to add, but you need to help.

Metadata

free ebooks online

Right-click one of the titles, select the metadata edit option.

Fill in the data as best you can. Once your collection starts to grow, you will find you can select items such as authors from the combo box without typing them in full.

You can rate the books between zero and five stars, and attach each of the titles to series information if you wish.

There is also an option to download the metadata for the book from the Internet. I had mixed results, but it’s worth a shot.

Once you have finished with all the metadata, you’ll be able to filter, sort and search your books effectively. Not much use with three books, but you can use your imagination.

free ebooks online

Reading Free Ebooks

One of the great things about Calibre is the way it can convert between file formats.

The format that you want will depend almost entirely on the device you want to use to read your books. You can choose, but I just need to use an example. First though, Calibre specifically states support for a large number of devices directly, and supports enough file formats to cover most anything else.

Calibre can also manage the device syncing in many cases, but we’re not going to do that today.

We’re going to convert each of the files we downloaded, and for the example we want to change them all to .PDB files, so that I can transfer them to my device. Find something that works for you, and stick with it as much as you can.

Convert1

So, War and Peace from HTML to PDB: Right-click the book, choose Convert books, then Convert individually.

completely free ebooks

On the left are a big list of option categories. Leave all of those alone, and look over to the right and select the file type you want, set any other sub-options you need, and then click on OK. Give the system a minute to deal with your request, and then that’s it. Convert the rest.

Browse to the location of the library, and take a look. Additional files exist. Copy or synch them to your device, install the reader application, and you’re all set. You can also use the built-in Calibre reader on your PC for most formats.

So which parts of this are confusing? Any need for a deeper article on parts of it? Any questions? Let me know in the comments.

  1. Bryceaj
    October 5, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    Thanks for the rundown on using Calibre which I only downloaded yesterday, so am still very green. Perhaps you can tell me why, in the Calibre Welcome Wizard, it suggests setting up a gmail account and providing that gmail address to Amazon so that "Calibre can automatically send books by email to your Kindle". Why would one bother when it is so easy to transfer a book via USB directly to the Kindle?

  2. Jim
    September 8, 2010 at 8:26 am

    good matter

  3. Tony B
    September 1, 2010 at 6:59 am

    This is a wonderful opinion. The things mentioned are unanimous and needs to be appreciated by everyone.
    I appreciate the concern which is been rose. The things need to be sorted out because it is about the individual but it can be with everyone.

    Smith.
    -----------------------------------
    PLR Ebook

  4. Jim Henderson
    August 23, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Okay, that's a whole different subject. :-) I'll look more into that when I get a chance. Thanks.

  5. Joanna
    August 22, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    http://www.bookglutton.com/
    Book Glutton is another interesting option. It allows you to annotate and discuss the books while reading them online.

  6. Joanna
    August 22, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    http://www.bookglutton.com/
    Book Glutton is another interesting option. It allows you to annotate and discuss the books while reading them online.

  7. differentperspective
    August 21, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    It does the first one. Just creates a copy in another format, and then manages it, so that it knows you have x copies of the same book in x different formats.

    With a login of 'kiwikid', are we both New Zealanders, by chance?

    Jim

  8. kiwikid
    August 21, 2010 at 8:44 am

    Does Calibre convert to different formats as separate files from original, or does it involve changing the original to the new format, thereby destroying the original.

    • Jim Henderson
      August 21, 2010 at 8:33 pm

      It does the first one. Just creates a copy in another format, and then manages it, so that it knows you have x copies of the same book in x different formats.

      With a login of 'kiwikid', are we both New Zealanders, by chance?

      Jim

  9. Eric Stanulis
    August 20, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    There's also a collection of Baen's books at http://baencd.thefifthimperium.... That has all the books from several of their major authors, totally legal (they're rips of CD distributed with their books that are meant to be shared and drum up sales).

  10. Eric Stanulis
    August 20, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    There's also a collection of Baen's books at http://baencd.thefifthimperium.com. That has all the books from several of their major authors, totally legal (they're rips of CD distributed with their books that are meant to be shared and drum up sales).

    • Jim Henderson
      August 21, 2010 at 8:31 pm

      That's an awful lot of reading! :-)

  11. differentperspective
    August 20, 2010 at 10:12 pm

    Firstly, not something I know a lot about, but might be able to take a look sometime soon.

    Secondly, we produce .pdf books at Make Use Of. I'll pass your query on in case I can get someone to describe how that's done.

    Thirdly... how about posting the question at http://www.makeuseof.com/answe... and seeing if any of our readers has a good idea?

  12. Djelliott
    August 20, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Calibre is fantastic...one stop organizer for all ebooks & any PDF files.
    I just wish I could use it for audio-books.
    If I have any trouble downloading metadata, I look the book up in Amazon and copy the ISBN number over; metadata can then be found AND the cover downloaded.

  13. Djelliott
    August 20, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Calibre is fantastic...one stop organizer for all ebooks & any PDF files.
    I just wish I could use it for audio-books.
    If I have any trouble downloading metadata, I look the book up in Amazon and copy the ISBN number over; metadata can then be found AND the cover downloaded.

    • Jim Henderson
      August 21, 2010 at 8:25 pm

      It's difficult to underestimate the power of a good ISBN!

  14. joe
    August 20, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Have you done or will you do programs so that you can easily write and design e-books.?
    Would like to do a brief one, but want to put on nice cover that looks good etc.
    Are there any free software answers out there.?

    Joe

  15. joe
    August 20, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Have you done or will you do programs so that you can easily write and design e-books.?
    Would like to do a brief one, but want to put on nice cover that looks good etc.
    Are there any free software answers out there.?

    Joe

    • Jim Henderson
      August 20, 2010 at 8:12 pm

      Firstly, not something I know a lot about, but might be able to take a look sometime soon.

      Secondly, we produce .pdf books at Make Use Of. I'll pass your query on in case I can get someone to describe how that's done.

      Thirdly... how about posting the question at http://www.makeuseof.com/answers/ and seeing if any of our readers has a good idea?

  16. Saikat Basu
    August 20, 2010 at 5:50 am

    Didn't know that Calibre could convert eBooks into different formats. Thanks.

    • Jim Henderson
      August 20, 2010 at 8:36 am

      No problem. Enjoy.

  17. Tony
    August 20, 2010 at 2:11 am

    Isn't downloading Ebooks from Project Gutenberg illegal in some countries? As pointed out in the blog post "Project Gutenberg : The Ultimate Source of Free eBooks" it is said like this - "Please keep in mind, while the service is legal in the United States it may not be the case for the some other countries. So make sure to check the copyright laws of your country before downloading a book."

    • Jim Henderson
      August 20, 2010 at 8:36 am

      The possibility certainly exists. Mostly the differences for countries are about the dates at which the copyrights expire. Always best to check.

  18. Osvaldo
    August 19, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Hi, Calibre is a worth having program. I sometimes buy books on Safari Online and this software allows me to convert them from .pdf into the iPad native format and also via its seamless integration with iTunes, they are linked to its library and easily uploaded to the iPad. Amazingly Calibre is free. Gladly I had no need to buy a reader application for iPad. Thank you for all these helpful suggestions.

    • Jim Henderson
      August 20, 2010 at 8:35 am

      How do the .pdf conversions work out? Easy to read the results?

  19. nm
    August 19, 2010 at 11:40 am

    One of the problems I had with downloading books from Gutenberg etc. was that I would get so disorganised, and wouldn't know where the files were. Calibre is a great way to keep all of it organised - and really give ebooks on the computer a proper try. I might just pull out that little netbook I bought and barely used and install Calibre on it...

    • Jim Henderson
      August 20, 2010 at 8:34 am

      I've just bought a netbook myself, and will definitely be giving that a workout.

  20. Aibek
    August 19, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Hey Jim,

    Thanks for the comprehensive article! there were a couple of other related MakeUseOf posts in the past users may like.

    - The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks
    - 7 Great Sites To Get Free Romance eBooks For The Hopeless Romantic

  21. Aibek
    August 19, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Hey Jim,

    Thanks for the comprehensive article! there were a couple of other related MakeUseOf posts in the past users may like.

    - The Best 6 Sites to Get Free Ebooks
    - 7 Great Sites To Get Free Romance eBooks For The Hopeless Romantic

  22. Sandeeppothuganti
    August 19, 2010 at 4:11 am

    Thanks a lot. It helped me a lot

    • Marko
      August 19, 2010 at 10:45 am

      same here, found the article very helpful!

      • Jim Henderson
        August 20, 2010 at 8:34 am

        And again. :-)

    • Jim Henderson
      August 20, 2010 at 8:33 am

      You're most welcome.

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