Project Gutenberg, with the cooperation of many other eBook publishers, is currently sponsoring a month-long eBook Fair. They have made available about 1/3 million books – free of charge – until August 4, 2006.
The World eBook Fair has over 330,000 digital ebooks available for free downloading on “nearly every classic author on the varieties of subjects previously only available through the largest library collections in the world.” Once downloaded, you can use these books, free of charge, indefinitely. Normally, the World eBook Library charges USD $8.95 per year for online access with unlimited personal downloading.
I read a lot of books, and a few years ago I fell in love with my Palm handheld computer, turning it into the perfect reading tool. I use inDev Software’s Tiny Book Reader (TiBR Pro). It allows for reading text, zTXT, or PalmDocs (pdb) files from your handheld’s memory or storage card. You can adjust the font size and style for easier reading from small to extra-large. You can also set the smooth scrolling rate easily to move the text down the page at your own pace. No more scrapping sounds of turning pages in the middle of the night. No night light on in the night as the Palm has its own backlight, and I rarely lose my place as it stops scrolling as soon as I touch the screen. There is also a free conversion program which will create PalmDoc or zTXT books from some other book versions called TiBR Converter. I haven’t found a PDF converter, so I open the PDF file in a PDF reader and copy the entire text and paste it into a text editor and save it, then convert it and read.
I thought I’d check out the free books available through the World eBook Fair. After an attempt with their general search left me in frustration, I found their eBook Collections. You can still search, but the search includes all forums, articles, and other information not directly related to specific books. If you know the specific subject, title or author, then that works, especially if you use the words or phrase wrapped with quote marks. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t believe in web standards for accessibility. Every search or click on a search result pops up a new page. Hitting the eBook Collections list was more successful.
To get to the Collections, scroll part way down the page past the letter to the beginning of the alphabetized collection list.
I looked through the collections to find if there were any genealogy related free books. I found books related to reports and analysis from the US Census Bureau, classic literature up to 1923 and the Cordella Collegiate Bookshelf of Classic Literature (to possibly read what your ancestors read), University of Adelaide Library of Web Books of historical novels and text, Etana – CWRU University Library Digital Collection of Earliest Written Texts of the Ancient Near East including religious and historical texts, US Government Office Printing Collection from 1813 to 2005, Renascence Editions of works printed in English between 1477 and 1799, and Victorian Prose Archives.
A few historical highlights include A Trip Down San Francisco’s Market Street Before the Earthquake and Fire of 1906 (movie), John McElroy’s Andersonville story of the famous Andersonville Prison, and Jerusalem: The Topography, Economics, and History From the Earliest Times to A.D. 70 Volume I. The amazing collection of Free Children’s Books Collection features children’s books dating back to the early 1900s and before. Some free children’s books include “Twinkle and Chubbins” by Laura Bancroft in 1911, “Aladdin or the Wonderful Lamp” from 1895, most of the L. Frank Baum “Oz” series books, Beatrix Potter’s “Peter Rabbit” series, and “Winkle, Twinkle, and Lollypop” by Nina Wilcox Putnam and Norma Jacobson in 1918, books our ancestors may have been reading to their grandchildren, children, or themselves.
For the most part, the free digital books are all in PDF form and fairly easy to download. Some of the technical and ancient text are scanned in chapters and sections, which is tedious to download, but worth it if the material is important to your research and studies.
A few of the more technical or historical books have not been OCRed, the technique of digitally converting the text image into actual text. They have been scanned and you read the scanned images from within PDF files. Many of these 300-800 page books are saved in sections such as pages 20-40, 41-60, and so on. In order to download the entire book, you have to download each file individually. I tried using a website copier program and it was stopped at the door. When possible, I recommend using the File Save As or Save Target As options from the Right Click menu in your web browser instead of opening each PDF document. These scanned-image-only documents are frustrating to work with, but they do capture the images, fonts, and layout of the original books.
There are some really good books, and many of the older books listed are also available via the Gutenberg Press Project. I’ve included a list of other online resources for downloading free books below.
Remember, this free book offer only lasts until August 4, 2006. Many of these books are also available online at Project Gutenberg for free in a variety of formats.
- Free eBooks from Australia
- Books Online: Project Gutenberg
- The Online Books Page
- Baen Free Library – Free Books Online
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