You can never have too many books, so we are delighted to share with you some ways to get them for free. From children’s books to technical books, there are numerous resources that offer literature for free. Some of the following sites offer actual printed books, while others feature electronic books (aka “ebooks”). Please bear in mind that the list is alphabetized, not ordered by importance.
- Bibliomania – Bibliomania is a simple and fast-loading site that offers over 2000 classic books, short stories, plays and poems online. From Mark Twain to William Shakespeare, some of the world’s greatest writers are included on the site. All you have to do is browse the site’s genre sections or search for a specific text, then you are presented with it directly on the site’s page. Users can seamlessly stroll through each page with this site, as it isn’t bogged down with flashy graphics.
- BookCrossing – Touted as “the world’s biggest free book club,” BookCrossing is a free book resource, as well as a human experiment. Through this site, people are encouraged to start a free account and begin “releasing books into the wild.” You can release books by registering them on the site and then leaving them in a public place where they can be picked up for free by others and enjoyed. Also, you can send books to other site members.
- Bookins – Every “green” book lover should be keen on reducing, reusing and recycling their literature. Bookins offers a very simple system through which to swap your books and their mailing system is the best. You will only have to pay for shipping on the books you receive, never on the books to donate. For donated books, Bookins offers free postage kits. The site is free to join and is growing each day.
- BookMooch – BookMooch is a free community for exchanging books. By donating books to BookMooch, you will earn points that can be exchanged for other people’s books. This community is free to join and the only price you will pay is shipping when you mail your books.
- Childrens Books Online – Children’s Books Online is an impressive collection of illustrated children’s books from around the globe. All of these books, scanned and digitized for the site, are free to the public. From classic, well-known children’s books to rare, foreign books, you can find a large assortment. A group of volunteers help to translate and upload new books onto the site and it has grown tremendously since its creation in 1996. Both parents and teachers should find this family-friendly site to be very useful.
- Google Book Search – Google is continuing its campaign for world domination with this awesome project. By scanning each page of entire texts, Google has digitized at least one million books for users to read online. Still in a beta stage, the site has raised some questions about intellectual property and copyright laws. However, many of the books you will find on Google Book Search are public domain. You can easily get lost in this site and, hopefully, it will only continue to grow for years to come.
- Memoware – Memoware offers free ebooks and documents that are specifically designed for handheld devices. Memoware downloads are compatible with Palm OS, Pocket PC, Windows CE, EPOC and Symbian software. Available documents include maps and technical references that can be useful on the road or at work. Almost all of the ebooks and documents found on Memoware are “freeware,” though a few are “shareware” products and should be registered if used.
- PaperBackSwap – PaperBackSwap is one of the largest book trading clubs online. The simple system allows you to donate books for credits and use those credits to get free books. As with all swapping clubs, you will have to pay for shipping. However, shipping multiple books at once will be cost-efficient and, if you are an avid reader, you will save a lot of money by swapping for free books.PaperBackSwap is a very popular site that currently has over 1 million books available. Registration with the site is free and the program has recently branched out to include CDs and DVDs.
- Project Gutenberg – Project Gutenberg is one of the oldest and largest sources of free ebooks. The site is a wiki, meaning any user can edit it. In fact, Project Gutenberg has grown to greatness due to the hard work of many volunteers. To date, the site has a database of over 20,000 books.
- SF-Books – SF-Books is the first and only online paperback swap to specialize in science fiction and fantasy books. If you devour books from these genres, then you will save a lot of money by swapping your books for other used paperbacks. With the books you receive, you can choose to keep them forever or swap them for something new.
- socialbib – If you are a poor college student (is there any other kind?), then you should jump at the chance to get your textbooks for free. socialbib is a wonderful site that is free to join if you are a currently enrolled student. The purpose of the site is to recycle textbooks amongst students. At the end of each semester, you will turn in your books to socialbib and, in turn, can search for free textbooks for your next courses. Why sell $800 worth of books for $30 on campus? It is an insult.
- SwapThing – A free account with this site will allow you to swap anything of yours for an item that belongs to another user. Of course, you and this other user must agree on the swap. It is a revolutionary concept and can apply to more than just books.
- Title Trader – Title Trader is another media swapping site, allowing members to trade paperback books, CDs, DVDs and more. Free to join, Title Trader is one of the larger sites to offer such a service. The site works through a point system, as you will earn points for donating items. These points can then be redeemed for merchandise that has been donated by other users. So far, the site has facilitate over 145,000 successful trades.
- Wikibooks – Wikibooks is an interesting project that started in 2003. Created by the makers of Wikipedia, Wikibooks offers over 27,000 open-content textbooks. A team of volunteers writes these online textbooks, just like Wikipedia. Don’t be too concerned about the validity of the information found here, however, as the site is diligently edited and moderated by a team of experts. From cookbooks to natural sciences, you can find texts on just about any subject.
- World Public Library – The World Public Library is the largest online source of ebooks. Currently offering over 500,000 PDF books and documents, you can find anything from textbooks to classic literature on this site. Best of all, membership is free. It truly is an online public library and, assuming you are comfortable with the ebook format, this site could very well replace your regular visits to the local library.
- WOWIO – WOWIO is a very hip source of public domain ebooks and contemporary titles, including graphic novels. You must register with the site before downloading the material, but this is also free of charge. Created in 2006, WOWIO is quickly gaining attention as one of the few legal sources of high-quality, copyrighted online books.
- Zunafish – Everyone has been talking about Zunafish this year, including TIME magazine and Oprah Winfrey. It is a paperback swapping site, yet so much more. Not only will you be able to trade for free books, you can also find video games, audiobooks, CDs, video games, DVDs and more.Zunafish is free to join and there is no limit to how many trades you can make. However, the site only allows “like item trading.” In other words, you can only trade a book for a book and a CD for a CD. Still, this is an exciting concept that may eventually lure eBay addicts over to Zunefish.
Bibliomania is an invaluable tool for book lovers, as well as students and teachers. Teachers for the classroom could print off excerpts from classic texts. Also, study guides are available on the site, should you need to cram for a big test. Should you wish to purchase a physical copy of a featured text, you can be directed to a store where you will can order the text online with a credit card.
Members of BookCrossing can also “catch” books by requesting registered books as gifts or by finding registered books “in the wild.” The purpose of BookCrossing is to track books across the world and to share great literature with strangers. It is a fun project to be a part of and the site, in just a short time, has grown tremendously in popularity.
There is more to BookMooch, however. The points you earn and the books you donate can also be given away to charity, such as African literacy programs or children’s hospitals.This site is one of the largest book-swapping communities online and the interface is very simple. If you would like a specific book that isn’t listed yet on BookMooch, a “wish list” can be made, which will put you first in line to receive your wanted books once they are available.
Many of the books on the site are public domain, which means you can print and redistribute them.Public domain ebooks are especially helpful to teachers who wish to print off excerpts for the classroom. Also, those who wish to adapt books or short stories to a stage play will be able to use public domain books without paying a fee. Project Gutenberg has so many texts, you may be wish to start browsing their Top 100 list first.
SF-Books is free to join and very simple to use. Created in 2001, it is one of the oldest book-swapping clubs online. Currently, there are over 8000 books available to interested readers. With nearly 5000 successful trades under the site’s belt, this is also one of the most trusted swapping clubs.
socialbib will allow you to accomplish several things. You can save your much-needed cash and get some free textbooks, you can connect with other students in a positive way and you can stick it to “the man.” Really, why should a math book cost you $100 anyway? Use your student credit cards on something a little more fun.
If books are all you are after, however, there are plenty to be found. Don’t assume that you have to offer books to get them. For all you know, an old garden rake may be an agreeable swap for some classic literature from another user.For exchanges that may not be an “equal” swap, users can barter an extra amount of cash to make the trade equal. Users can also just offer money and not an object for trade, though people who are looking to do that should probably just check out eBay. Remember, when using any kind of swap site, you will still have to cough up a little dough for shipping.
Both students and teachers will find the World Public Library very useful, as encyclopedias, dictionaries and other research materials are readily available through the site. The World Public Library has been in operation since 1996 and it has been a global effort to build it out to such magnitude. The site is only going to grow from here, as the world really is going digital.
Great care is taken with the scanning and digitizing of the material found on WOWIO and the site’s interface is very simple. Students will find much-needed textbooks here and frugal comic book lovers will see some of their favorite titles. By simply browsing the material and adding each book to a queue, users can create their “must read” list. A fairly new site, WOWIO is growing exponentially and adding new titles every day.
Whether you are interested in ebooks or printed books, the above sites are only the tip of the iceberg. Paperback swapping and digitized literature are increasing in popularity each day, spawning even more sources of free books. From comic books to encyclopedias, both frugal book lovers and academic researchers should take advantage of the sites above, as well as any other resources that offer free books.
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