As everyone’s anticipation to own an iPad increases, I’ve discovered that some Mac owners have never dipped into the ePub eBook pool.
This post is a brief guide to building a library of DRM-free and legally-free ePub eBooks.
Some of you might have heard that Google has digitized over a million books and offers them for free. Well, stay away from Google’s One Million eBooks Of Crap! They are virtually unreadable.
You will also quickly find that ePub isn’t the nirvana all the PR would have you believe. See my prior post: The eBook Cover Scandal. In addition, Table of Contents sometimes do not link through to chapters and publishers are providing worthless Indexes. And yes, these are with ePub eBooks that you must pay for.
In addition, iPad owners will likely be locked into Apple’s iBookstore due to the FairPlay DRM. Until Apple convinces book publishers to go DRM-free like music, what you pay for will always be in jeopardy.
So, at the beginning, it’s best to stick with free ePub. They can be moved onto the iPad easily via iTunes or drag and drop to a Shared Folder. And they can be shared with friends easily by emailing them from your Mac or providing a link to them from one of the websites below.
Free doesn’t mean lesser quality (though sometimes it can be). As with pay-for ePub eBooks, you can usually expect a dead Table of Contents (no linking to chapters), no Index, and formatting issues. (It will be interesting to see how the iPad iBooks software handles formatting issues, since Apple has created its own ePub rendering engine. The one used by most eInk devices, from Adobe, is far from being optimal. And the ePub standard has screwed-up something as simple as covers too.)
Free eBooks are usually:
1) Out-of-print orphan works
2) Public domain (fallen out of Copyright)
3) Samples from publishers
4) Samples from writers
Anyone who wants to sample ePub eBooks before owning an iPad can do so by using Stanza on the iPhone or iPod Touch. Those lacking an iPhone might want to hitch a free ride from Sony. Download their Reader Library software. It was recently made Mac OS X compatible.
The Sony software should be used only to view free ePubs. Do not buy ePub eBooks from Sony. They will not be readable on the iPad due to incompatible DRM.
The Reader Library software borrowed its design from iTunes, so I won’t offer any tutorial in using it. Anyone who has used iTunes will be familiar with most of its aspects.
These are the major sites to hit to find free ePub eBooks:
Feedbooks (multiple formats)
Manybooks (multiple formats)
Web Books — not all are ePub
Adobe Sample eBook Library — full eBooks and sample chapters
Baen Free Library — SF & fantasy
Finding Free eBooks — not all are ePub
eBooks Just Published — not all are free or ePub
Smashwords — not all are free or ePub
Finding Free eBooks
Mobileread ePub downloads
Online Novels: Free Novels Available On The Internet
*Note: Project Gutenberg ePubs too often have a lot of frontmatter to page through before getting to the story!
At my prior blog, I consolidated a bunch of links to free eBooks into one post too:
Some of those will be in PDF format only, not ePub.
A word about PDF. Since the iPad has a 9.7-inch screen, reading PDFs on it should be a very good experience.
For PDFs, it’s OK to use Google Books. The pages are straight book scans (however, be forewarned there still might be errors). And then there is also Scribd. In addition, some of the sites listed above also offer PDF as a download format in addition to ePub. The main disadvantages of PDF are that the file is considerably larger than an ePub file and sometimes paging through a PDF can be slow.
Don’t wait for your iPad! Start searching for eBooks today and build a library to have ready!