After Hours

Where to find free sci-fi and fantasy ebooks and audiobooks

Edmond Woychowsky points sci-fi and fantasy readers in the direction of some good resources for free ebooks and audiobooks.

I find ereaders intriguing (especially the Amazon Kindle and the Barnes & Noble NOOK), but I've noticed that the price of the average ebook is almost the same as a dead tree book. Why should I plop down money for ebooks that are in the public domain? Consider the H.G. Wells 1898 classic The War of the Worlds: Some retailers want 95 cents for their edition, which isn't a lot of money, but times are hard (I know... I recently went through a wee bout of unemployment); so I went looking for a free edition of War of the Worlds, and I discovered thousands of free ebooks are available for science-fiction and fantasy fans.

Amazon.com offers close to 40,000 free science fiction and fantasy ebooks available for download on the Kindle. In comparison, I only found 710 free sci-fi and fantasy ebooks available for the Barnes & Noble NOOK. (I realize there are many more ereaders on the market and a number of tablet computers that allow you to read ebooks, with features like Wi-Fi access and the ability to play MP3s; unfortunately, all of those devices are out of my price range.)

A great resource for free ebooks is Project Gutenberg. Yes, Project Gutenberg still has the text and HTML files that you either love or hate, as well as books in both EPUB and Mobipocket formats. Project Gutenberg features older works (that's almost required to be in the public domain) such as The War of the Worlds, though there are a number of authors who might be of interest to fans of Wells. There's works by H. Beam Piper, including the classic Little Fuzzy, a tale as fresh today as when it was first published. You'll also find listings for Marion Zimmer Bradley, who is one of the authors responsible for me losing a lot of sleep. If you'd rather search the Project Gutenberg "shelves" yourself, you can always query science fiction or fantasy to see what interests you.

Project Gutenberg even offers free audiobooks, though the selection at LibriVox is much larger. The quality of the LibriVox readers' varies a lot. I don't mean that to be a slight against the readers (they are all unpaid volunteers after all) -- it's just that I never imagined the John Carter of the House of Helium had a German accent. Podiobooks is another site I check for free science fiction and fantasy audiobooks. The books on Podiobooks aren't older books -- in fact, some of the titles haven't even been printed yet.

My biggest problem with listening to free audiobooks is that sometimes I like the book so much that end up going out and buying the print version. My guess is it's a conspiracy involving Christiana Ellis, Scott Sigler, Mercedes Lackey, J. C. Hutchins, Phil Rossi, Cory Doctorow, Mur Lafferty, Steve Libbey, and Philippa Ballantine. In fact, I'm buying more books than I have in years, and I'm quickly running out of places to keep them -- that's why I'm serious thinking about getting an Amazon Kindle. I've weighed the options, and a Kindle is cheaper than a bigger house.

11 comments
Ken
Ken

I love my Kindle, I wouldn't go anywhere without it, and until recently I loved the way I could get books from the Amazon site. Until I got an email with an offer from Amazon saying I could get 3 books for the price of 2..... I thought fantastic , there are three books by Terry Brooks that I was going to purchase anyway, and this would save me 33% .. I went to the Amazon site to order these books, then shock horror, it was only for physical copies. In fact the e-books were more expensive than the hard copies and there was no 3 for 2 offer. I asked Amazon about this and they explained that E-Book prices are set by the publishers not by Amazon. I have no problem paying a fair price for books, Its hard work and the author deserves to be paid, but I dont like being taken for a fool. I have now found other sources for my E-Books that cost me a lot less.

Technologicallee
Technologicallee

I am a Kindle owner and I love it! I've downloaded and read many classics that I never got around to and many that I had read before. The Complete Sherlock Holmes is timeless. The Complete works of Rudyard Kipling is another must have. The writings of Julius Caesar! The strange thing is that if I had not won this Kindle at a Hitachi sales training I don't think I would have bought one. I love books and they are taking up a lot of space at my house. I am concerned though that this digital collection will not "always" be mine. What happens when technology moves on and there is no Kindle or device that will read my Kindle collection?

PReinie
PReinie

I'm in Northbrook IL and our library is connected with something called MyMediaMall.net. The libraries associated with it all seem to be northern Illinois, but your library may have another access point. MyMediaMall contains audio books for download, and other media too, like movies. Textual media may also be downloaded but I haven't checked. You install a tool called Overdrive (media player) to play them. Because the media may be copyrighted you check out (same as hard copy books, DVDs, cassettes, etc. in the library) media for a certain amount of time and when that time expires you can no longer "read" the media. It goes back into "circulation" for the next person that wants to check it out. Likely you can check them back in so others can check out when you're done. Overdrive seems to be mostly Windoze targeted but there are conniptions you can go through for Macs. Dunno about unix OSs (aside from OS X). Phil

SKDTech
SKDTech

When we are talking about data that I am not allowed to sell when I no longer want it and that costs the same as hardcopy I would much rather have a paperback or hardcover. Publishers really need to get a grip and stop charging the same for digital editions as they do for physical media editions. Whether it is books, videos or games.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

is that I can swap them at used book stores. Also, trading e-books with my father would require two readers.

OurITLady
OurITLady

Baen also have a free library that their authors can choose to "donate" to. They're often the first book in a series to create interest, but there's a pretty decent list and some well-known authors. They also offer the books in a good range of formats. Just go to www.baen.com and follow the link to Free Library. I have used Project Gutenburg as well, it's a great source for the classics.

bboyd
bboyd

My wife has a lot more books and less bookshelves. Plus it travels so much better. I'm OK with the other readers on the market but the E-ink that the kindle uses is awesome. Thanks for directing to more free E-books too. We still use our public library and are wishing that they did more e-book loans.

DNSB
DNSB

There are programs to allow converting ebooks from one format to another. My current favourite is Calibre which allows me to build my library on my PC and manage the books on my Kobo Touch. Another program I find very useful is Sigil which allows me to edit ePub format books, mostly to correct issues such as 3 centimeter margins -- I do so appreciate wasting half the eInk screen to display white space.

SKDTech
SKDTech

Barnes & Noble's Nook eReader allows you to loan out ebooks from your library last I checked.

janitorman
janitorman

@DNSB I really appreciate both of those programs, and Calibre has an e-book reader built-in, as well, so you can read the books ON the computer, laptop, etc. Yes, it's also available for *nix, by the way. I purchased a Kobo reader about a year ago, when they dropped under $100 (no wifi, etc.) and I've found it's all I need. (The Kindle and Nook aren't the only options out there.) The only thing I would have liked to see on my model would have been a separate charger (it has to charge through a USB port.) It also came with 100 free e-books (many of which I'll never read, sadly.) I like the fact that mine isn't a touch screen (hate those.) I've never used the Kobo store, or any other e-book store, I download all my books using Firefox on free e-book sites, usually in ePub format, but with Sigil I have converted a few text-only and .html pages. With a little searching, you will also come across sites like bartleby's and page by page books, several libraries, and even ebook listing sites which will direct you to a multitude of sci-fi/fantasy ebook sites! Happy reading.

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