Google’s entry into the ebook store business will undoubtedly be controversial, but one thing is clear: their collection of public domain ebooks is without rival in terms of volume and quality. Best of all, with the help of Calibre, you can read these books on practically any device – even the seemingly unsupported Amazon Kindle.
Sadly, it seems that right now none of these offerings work outside of the United States. You could try using a proxy to bypass this with various proxy services, if you want, but the sad truth is that Google isn’t officially opening this service up to everyone quite yet.
Finding Free Books
For those of us in America, though, Google’s book store appears to be just another book store at first glance. There’s the usual collection of New York Times Bestsellers, and many books for sale.
Keep scrolling down, however, and you’ll see this section:
This is the paydirt. Here you can get access to Google’s 3 million public domain titles. You can browse by simply going through the free titles here, or you can search for any work that is in the public domain. Any book without a price beneath it, you can assume, is free.
Once you find a book you like you can read the book online. Google offers a simple but very useful web-based ebook reader:
This elegant interface gives you a great way to read these public domain books, particularly if you set your browser for full-screen. The arrow keys behave as you’d expect them to, turning the pages, and you can quickly access the table on contents or search the text. Best of all, it’s tied to your Google account, meaning you can switch computers and keep reading from where you left off, without having to install anything.
But for those of us with access to a dedicated ebook reader this has no appeal at all. We want to read these books on our readers, of course. This isn’t a problem. Users of the iPad, iPhone and Android devices will be happy to know that dedicated apps for reading these books exist. There’s also official instructions for the Nook and Sony Readers.
Beyond this, Google is offering support to any device that can work with Adobe Digital Editions, including my beloved Kobo. If you’re wondering whether your device can access these books, check out this handy list from Adobe and see if your device is there.
Note that you only need to use Adobe’s software for purchased books, however. All of Google’s ebooks are completely free of DRM, meaning you can easily put them onto any ebook reader supported by Calire, the best ebook management software. This includes all of the above-mentioned devices, and the Kindle (which is specifically not supported by Google).
Using Google EPUBS With Calibre
So how do we download these unprotected books, so we can transfer them to Calibre? Easily. On any book’s summary page, you’ll see this blue box:
Instead of clicking “Read Now,” click “Read on your device“. This will bring you to a page of various options. Scroll down until you see these options:
I highly recommend you select “EPUB”, as this format is custom-made to work well with almost every ebook reader on the market (except the Kindle, which doesn’t support it, though you can use Calibre to convert it). Once you’ve downloaded the EPUB all you need to do is add the book to your Calibre library and then use Calibre to send it to your device.
You’ll be glad you did. Google’s EPUB files are wonderfully rendered, and far less cumbersome to read than the ones provided by Project Gutenburg–at least, that’s the case in my experience. I’m going to be using Google for all my public domain EPUB downloads from now on.
What do you think about Google ebooks? Do you enjoy this free service from Google, or do you prefer to use other sites to get free ebooks? Let me know in the comments below.