As much as some people want to ignore it, it seems that eBooks are here to stay. This does not mean, of course, that paper books are gone for good, and I personally still like them very much, but it’s hard to withstand the availability and speed with which one can get one’s hands on an eBook.
While not being as fun as paper books or as easy on the eyes as other dedicated eReaders, the iPad provides a good way to read thousands of eBooks without buying another specialized device. Below I mention several websites where you can find loads of free iPad books.
Note that most of the free books you can get are those that are now in the public domain, meaning they are mostly by dead authors or have become public domain for other reasons. If you’re looking to get the latest big bestseller, you probably won’t find it for free on these websites.
In order to view these books on your iPad you’ll need an eBook app like iBooks. Simply add the .epub files to your iTunes library and sync them to your iPad. The books will automatically appear in iBooks.
Project Gutenberg might not be the best website to look at, but I guess that’s because they’re concentrating on what’s really important, and that’s bringing us lots of free books! It has pretty good search and browse options, and if you know what you’re looking for, finding it should be a breeze. There’s also a Top 100 list that should help if you don’t really know what you’re looking for.
This site offers eBooks in 7 different formats (including ePub, PDF, Kindle and several others). When I downloaded the ePub version on “Alice in Wonderland”, I got a file named “pg11″, which wasn’t very helpful. The book also didn’t come with a proper cover (or artwork, if you wish), so that was a bit boring, and this was the case for other books I downloaded through this site as well, but the books themselves were all there.
Project Gutenberg also offers an offline catalog of their books, so if you want to sit and look through it while you’re not connected to the internet, you can do so easily. You can also find books in many other languages, with 14 languages boasting more than 50 books to download!
On first glance, ManyBooks‘ design is better than Project Gutenberg, and definitely more “modern”, but after I tried playing with it a little, I found their interface a bit confusing. ManyBooks offers, well, many free books, and you can get those in numerous formats, some that I’ve never even heard of before.
Just browsing through their titles or authors gets a bit confusing, but searching works well. If you need help finding a book, there’s a “recommended” section and a “new titles” section. The “new” titles are, of course, new to the site, but not to the world. I also found a weird mix of English and non-English books in the same place, which didn’t help my confusion at all.
I chose to download “Through the Looking Glass”, which came with the helpful file name of “carrollletext91lglass19epub”, but the book did come with a cover picture, which was nice.
This site is a great improvement when it comes to looks. It’s very nice to look at, all the books have cover pictures and I found myself browsing it for much longer. I guess I’m a sucker for good looks.
ePubBooks offers many free books, but it also points you to places where you can get paid books. There aren’t many formats to download here, as you can guess from the name, but when looking for iPad books, this is not a problem. I chose to download the book “A Christmas Carol”, and the file name included both the name of the book and the author’s name in a way I could actually read it. Big plus! The file (and others I tried) did not, however, contain a cover picture for the book.
This site lets you browse and search, like all other sites, but it also lets you browse by genre. This is not new by any means, but what I loved about it is that ePubBooks actually explains what each genre means. Dropping genre names is all nice and dandy, but it’s great to know what they mean by those names.
FeedBooks is different from the other websites in that it has its own eBook store, which could be useful to some. This also means that you need to be wary, because many of the suggestions they give on their main page are for paid books. You can choose to look only at free books, and there is also an “Original books” category, which is interesting.
The book I chose to download came with a book cover image, and the name of the file was the best of all the sites I tried: “H. G. Wells – The War of the Worlds”. This is what it should look like! This by itself, for me, is a winning feature. As far as I could see, this website offers books in the ePub format only. It’s a very easy site to browse through, and it even has an RSS feed you can subscribe to which will let you know about new releases.
If you’re looking for books in other languages, though, this might not be the site for you. While other sites offer books in numerous other languages, FeedBooks offers book in only 4 languages (English, French, German and Spanish). But if you’re looking for books in these languages, you should definitely give this site a spin.
All these websites deliver what I was looking for, which is free iPad books. It’s hard to say which one is the best, as they all have some good features, and, of course, free books! But as all books are the same, I will tend to use the website that offers the best browsing experience, and that was FeedBooks. Having a coherent file name on download didn’t hurt either.
So where do you get your free books? Is there a really good website we missed? Let us know in the comments!