Sunday, August 19, 2007

Free Books Online

Here is a list of sites which offer books, magazines and other documents for free download. Rather than being comprehensive, I am trying to highlight the best or largest sources. You should find enough here to while away many an hour reading on your computer... or PDA or whatever.

There are two main types of resources, those which are protected by copyright but which are nonetheless free of charge, and those which are in the public domain. In the USA any book published before 1923 is now free of copyright, but rules differ in other countries.

Public domain works are not only free as in beer but free as in speech.

Project Gutenberg is the grand-daddy of copyright-free e-texts, with over 20,000 titles available in plain text. For example, check out The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci or The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce (still good fun). They also have a number of affiliates, providing even more.

For example, Project Gutenberg of Australia follows the copyright laws of that country, which makes public works of authors who died before 1955. This 32 year difference translates into a good number of additional documents.

The University of Pennsylvania indexes 25,000 Books Online, most in PDF and text. Amazingly this collection has been managed by a single individual since 1993. It includes not only public domain books but those that are free for personal noncommercial use.

Bartleby has a large collection of reference works, including the Columbia Encyclopedia and American Heritage Dictionary. This was once impressive, but with so many other references online, the need to get an electronic copy of a printed document is less compelling. The site houses what is apparently the largest Internet quotation collection (86,000) as well as fiction, non-fiction and over 10,000 poems. The files are accessible through over a third of a million web pages.

Asiaing has a selection of books and magazines, freely available in PDF. Start with Frankenstein and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland before working your way up to The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Why this site exists and who runs it is a mystery.

There are also a number of sites which exist to publish new works.
For example, Booksie allows you to post fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and read similar works from others, all without fee.

If you have any other suggestions, please comment!


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