Google eBooks are compatible with all sorts of e-book readers, but until recently the service has never enjoyed the benefits of an affiliated electronic paper device. Now however, the iRiver Story HD has become the Kindle to Google’s Amazon, providing users with the kind of direct access that other online booksellers have enjoyed for years. Google boasts that the new device has access to “more than 3 million” free titles through their service. But is that really a selling point? Can’t other electronic paper devices provide free reading, too? We decided to take a look.
Here’s how to get started finding free content for the major e-book readers available.
The Official Stores
Although the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony Reader are all ultimately trying to sell content, their online stores are surprisingly quick to point out some free alternatives. Each device’s store has a dedicated section for free titles (linked on the device names above). Don’t expect any of these sections to give away new releases and best sellers. Most free e-books are either old, and thus in the public domain, or are rather obscure. It’s worth noting that Amazon’s store has separate sections for “Popular Classics” and books that are free because of “Limited-time Promotional Offers” (in the latter case, you’ll need to sort the list from lowest to highest price to find the free stuff).
One of the best known sources for free ebooks is Project Gutenberg, which has thousands of expired-copyright titles available in ePub (which most ereaders support) and Kindle formats. Getting Gutenberg ebooks onto your device won’t be quite as easy as it is in the official stores, but the site has a How-To page with instructions and advice for several major devices. In most cases, you’ll need to connect your e-reader with a USB cable and then manually transfer the ebook files. On the Kobo, however, you can grab 100 of Project Gutenberg’s most popular titles right from the online store.
While the Story HD provides direct access to free Google eBooks, you can already use them on any e-reader that supports ePub files, though it requires downloading software and using a USB cable. Since the Kindle so famously snubs the ePub format, it’s not officially supported by Google eBooks. However the free, open-source Calibre software can convert ePub titles into Kindle-readable MOBI format. Between downloading the files, converting them, and transferring them, getting Google eBooks on a Kindle requires a good bit of work, but it can be done.
Instapaper and e-readers are a perfect fit—one makes it easy to collect articles you want to read, the other makes it easy to take that reading with you. Once you’ve used Instapaper to build up a collection of online text, you can use the download links to get the whole compilation in ePub or Kindle format. Even better, Kindle users can set up a daily or weekly wireless delivery of their Instapaper articles, though Amazon charges a small fee for the service ($0.15 per MB in the U.S., $0.99 outside, all via Amazon’s custom “Personal Documents” email address). To set this up, log into your Instapaper account and look under Extras.
Have another good source for free e-books? Let us know in the comments below!
Image via Flickr user kodomut