Download free books on your PDA or cellphone - Mobile Minute
I've been reading eBooks on my PDA for years. For a while, I was convinced that I could actually read faster, and get more out of books on a handheld device. The small screens actually organize text in such a way that your eyes don't have to scroll very far from left to right, making speed reading a little easier.
Adding bookmarks with eBook readers isn't quite as simple as bending a page or sticking a piece of paper between the pages, but many modern eBook readers allow you to create multiple digital bookmarks, highlight text, and easily search for text within a document.
But the main reason I still read paper books is because there's still a much larger selection of hardbound and paperback titles than digital texts.
Although some popular online booksellsers like Amazon continue to sell a limited number of eNooks, most of the books you want to read are not available. Barnes & Noble has closed its eBook store, and while there are many stores dedicated to eBooks, (Mobipocket, Fictionwise, and the Palm eBook store, to name a few), you'll need a dozen different eBook readers on your mobile device to handle the different formats available from each store.
So for the most part, I don't purchase eBooks anymore. I do use Mobipocket's free reader to synchronize a handful of RSS feeds every morning. That way I always have the top stories from my local papers, the New York Times, and a couple of other news sources.
But there's something else I use Mobipocket for. Reading free eBooks. Some are classics that are no longer bound by copyright law. Others are documents that have been made freely available by authors who believe in the value of distributing some of their work freely (like Cory Doctorow or Jonathon Lethem).
One of the first stops for any serious free eBook reader should be Project Gutenberg. This web site features the largest collection of free electronic books on the internet. You can search or browse by author, title, or subject. The group recently released a CD of science fiction titles, available as a BitTorrent download. The CD includes the usuals like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, but also titles from classic sci fi writers like Murray Leinster, Lester Del Ray, H. Beam Piper, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Most of these books can be downloaded as text or HTML files, which you can open in many eBook readers. You could also open files with your mobile web browser or word processor, but there are plenty of free eBook readers out there.
If you've got an internet enabled phone, you can also find a variety of free novels, short stories, and articles with Wattpad. You download a free client using your phone and then browse a selection of free reading material. The service is free, and ad-supported.
On the one hand, it has a much more limited selection than Project Gutenberg, because it's newer. On the other hand, since it acquires material through user uploads, you're more likely to find contemporary books or articles you want to read. I just can't promise that they were legally uploaded. There do seem to be a fair number of books available on Wattpad that should still be protected under copyright. It'll be interesting to see how the service deals with users who upload copyrighted material.
Another good resource for free eBooks is Manybooks. Again, these texts are sorted by category, title, and author. There are currently over 16,000 books available. One of the things that sets this site apart is that books are available in a wide variety of formats, including PDF, eReader, Mobipocket, Plucker, Doc, RTF, HTML and Rocketbook.
In other words, you'll be hard pressed to find a device that you can't read these books on. There are even iPod friendly formats.
Manybooks also has a recommendation system, with suggested reading material available from the front page. When dealing with out-of-copyright, and often out-of print titles that you may know nothing about, these recommendations can often be worth their weight in gold when it comes to finding something worth reading.
Manybooks also recently launched a mobile version, MNYBKS. This site is formatted for the small screen, and you can download books directly from your cellphone or PDA. You have a choice of downloading JAR files for your Java enabled phone, or Mobipocket eBooksf or a Windows Mobile PDA. I hope that in the future, Manybooks will consider allowing you to download some additional file formats, but this is a pretty good start.
I was easily able to find a couple of books on my PDA, click download, and open the files in Mobipocket.
In order for eBooks to really take off, publishers would need to issue a digital version of every book released in print. With high profile authors like J.K. Rowling saying they won't agree to digital copies, that isn't likely to happen.
But it's not because the technology doesn't exist. I'm not convinced I'd want to sit and read a book on a 1-inch cellphone screen. But a 3.8 inch PDA screen, or a 7-inch UMPC screen would be more than adequate for mobile reading. And you could take a whole library with you on vacation.
Probably one of te main reasons there aren't more eBooks available is that publishers have the same fears as the movie and music industries. If you make content available online, won't people just be able to bootleg copies? This could be a series threat, since books are mostly text, and text takes up very little space, You could easily fit 3 or 4 full-length books on a floppy disk, if anybody still used floppies.
While the solution may involve crippling books with DRM, it may also come from the realization that anything that encourages people to read more books is going to be good for the publishing industry. As long as you make it easier for people to buy books legally than to download them illegally, the public will be happy to oblige. That means reasonable pricing (the distribution fees for eBooks is virtually nil), wide selection, and availability at mainstream retailers like Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble, as well as eBook-only stores like Fictionwise.