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Language Arts

Finding Free Literature Online



If you are homeschooling or teaching and need to find literature for your students to read inexpensively, or if you are a parent who wants more material to read aloud or recommend to your children, this article will provide free online sources for literature.

Finding Free Literature to Print or Read on Computers or eReaders

Websites that offer books in PDF format are useful when you want to print books or read them using Adobe Reader. Books offered in plain text (.txt) can be opened into Microsoft Word. Books formatted as EPUB can be read on many eReaders. Some sites that offer these choices  include:

  • Internet Archive

    Located at http://archive.org the Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with about 2.5 million items. Besides its literature collection, the Internet Archive offers access to NASA images, a media collection, and the WayBack machine for viewing archived versions of web pages of the past. The main search categories are moving images, texts, audio, and software. The audio collection includes some audio books and poetry recordings.

  • ManyBooks.net

    With over 29,000 titles, ManyBooks.net is right where its name says it is. You can search by author, title, new titles, recommended, genre, and languages, of which there are 36 including Icelandic, Chinese, Sanskrit, and Middle English.

  • Open Library

    The Open LIbrary at http://openlibrary.org has over a million titles that are searchable by subject and author, as well as a 10,000 book lending library of eBooks that may be borrowed for 2 weeks (single copy).

  • Project Gutenberg

    A volunteer effort to create and distribute eBooks of various types, Project Gutenberg, founded by Michael S. Hart in 1971 is considered the oldest digital library. It had more than 39,000 items in November 2011.

    The contents of the collection--to which about 50 books are added each week--are primarily works of Western literature. Much of it is novels, short stories, poetry, and drama. There are other genres and some audio and music notation files.

    From the home page at http://www.gutenberg.org you can see a shortlist of the latest editions, search, or browse books by categories. You can search the Education Bookshelf or the Children's Bookshelf, for example. Books are also available in German, French, and Portuguese.

    Books can be found in a wide variety of formats, including HTML, EPUB, Kindle, PDF, Plucker, QiOO Mobile, and Plain Text UTF-8. Some are also offered as audio files.

    Free books from Makers of eReaders

    • Amazon makes free Kindle books available here, and since you can put a Kindle reader on your iPad, Android, Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Phone 7, or computer, you don't have to have a Kindle to read them.
    • Apple makes free iBooks available through iBooks > Store on an iDevice or through iTunes on your computer.
    • Like Amazon, Kobo makes free reader apps for a large number of devices, besides having its own readers, and you can find free Kobo books available here.


    What Types of Books are Available for Free

    Many books that are available are in the public domain. A large number are out-of-copyright and written prior to 1923. Authors who have to see their books to earn a living are unlikely to make their books available for free online. However, you may be able to borrow print editions or eBook versions from your public library. or school library, if you are affiliated with a school.

    Transferring Digital Books

    If you intend to transfer books to a device such as an eReader, you may need a cable to connect it to your computer, depending on where you get your material from and how you download it (and to which device).

    Printing Digital Books

    In some cases, you may wish to print one or more pages of a free book you find online. For example, perhaps you want to place a recipe from a digital eBook into your recipe file in the kitchen. If you get a PDF or .txt version, you can open the first in Adobe Reader (which is free) and the second in any word processing program and print the required pages from there.

    Although this article focuses on finding free digital books online, you and your students can also make digital books for teaching, learning, and sharing experiences. You can do this in a variety of ways. You can create a word processing file (yes, that's already a digital book). You can save that file to PDF. If you have a Mac and use Pages, you can export to EPUB, as you can with the free programs Calibre, and Sigil.

     

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