If you own Gmail account, you don’t have to sign up to any other site to start collecting your own library of ebooks. These books will be stored in the cloud. That means you will be able to access them from any device, not only from your computer.
When we add ease of use and simplicity, Google Play Books may the a first choice for anyone who gets interested in ebooks.
Obviously, there are enough free books in Google Play, and in this post you’ll find tips and tricks to effectively browse for them.
However, Google Play Books is a pretty closed ecosystem, very much relying on Google’s scan book project. Most of the free books here are the ones that entered public domain. What’s more, most of these free public domain titles are available only as scanned pages pdf files.
That’s why this list will be the opportunity to find other sources of free ebooks compatible with Google Play, including the ones from contemporary authors.
Before the list, let me share some usage tips:
1. To use Google Play Books you have to live in a country where the service officially launched. Currently there are 26 countries on the list.
2. You can access Google Play Books by going to this link.
3. To add own books, in the left panel click on Uploads, and then on a blue Upload files button.
4. You can upload up to 1,000 own books and documents. You can add unlimited number of publications found on Google Play Books.
5. Your own books should be uploaded either in pdf or epub format, without DRM (what is it?).
6. Once the books appear in your personal library on Google Play, you will be able to access not only from any computer (via a web browser), but also a tablet or smartphone (via Android or iOS Google Play Books applications). The books will be synced across all devices: latest-read locations, notes, and bookmarks.
My general advice is that, where possible, try to choose epub file instead of pdf.
Epub file is much more flexible. It allows users to adjust several settings. You can change font size, typeface, or you can switch to night mode (white letters on black background). Therefore, reading epub books on smaller screens is much more pleasant than fixed-layout pdf documents.
If you find a free book on Google Play, and that book is only available in pdf file with scanned pages, try to explore other public domain sites in the list below. You may find the same title in the epub format.
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9 sites with free ebooks for Google Play
1. Google Play Books
I like Google Play because it’s simple. Opposite to Amazon, where on a single page with book details, there are over 200 outgoing links (sic!) Google Play lets you find books in a much smoother and calmer way.
Currently there are over 4 million books on Google Play. Compared to Kindle Store, where there are no more than 2.5 million titles, it seems to be a lot, but don’t get too excited.
Google Play Books offers much less contemporary ebook publications than Amazon, that’s for sure. The 4 million books in Google’s ebookstore are mostly coming from Google’s own project devoted to scan print books (now it’s called Google Books, previously Google Book Search).
So far Google Books scanned and stored over 30 million print publications. Obviously, some of them were pulled to Google Play Books. These publications entered public domain. That means they can be offered in a digital format for free.
In this post I’ve described how to find free books on Google Play. In general, try to use search box extensively. For any search performed, no matter how specific it is, you’ll have the option to filter books to display only free ones (see screenshot below).
The good thing is that by default Google displays new titles. Books from Google scan project will appear while you scroll down. Usually, if there is no book cover, but only a title page, such a book is only available as scanned pdf.
A major disadvantage of Google Play Books is a lack of options to search for foreign-language books. And that’s where the other sites can be extremely useful.
Smashwords is one of the most popular places to find ebooks from independent authors and publishers. Books are available in several languages, all are DRM-free, and many authors make their publications available for free.
The site distributes books to a few major ebookstores, but unfortunately Google Play Books is not among them. In other words, if you are looking for newly written titles in popular categories, you’ll most likely find them on Smashwords.
To quickly get to the list of free ebooks, simply use the combination of the three top filter bars. For instance, here is the link to: bestsellers – that are free – that are 50k words or longer.
Currently there are about 25,000 free ebooks on Smashwords. You can first pick a category, and then select Free tab to get a list of free titles in your favorite genre. For instance, there are 2,100 science-fiction books that are free on Smashwords.
3. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is the top place to download free classics. Google Play Books offers free classics, too, but the titles from PG are “handmade”. They are very well edited and proofread. What’s more, you can browse the site by language.
Currently there are 42,000 public domain books in the catalog. There are two kinds of epub files: with or without images. The one with images takes much more disc space – and that also means it will take longer to download it from the library to your Google Books application.
Google Play Books users will definitely love that any book from Project Gutenberg can be added in one click to Google Drive.
4. Internet Archive
The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the mission of “universal access to all knowledge.” The website is a huge digital library of text, audio and video files. It offers over 3.8 mln ebooks and texts. Sub-collections include American Libraries, Canadian Libraries, books from Project Gutenberg, titles from the Million Books Project, and books for children.
When you find the interesting book, you’ll see in the left panel the list of available formats. In most cases epub will be included.
5. Open Library
Open Library is another initiative of the Internet Archive. The site positions itself as “the world’s classic literature at your fingertips”. There are over 1,000,000 free ebook titles available.
The biggest benefit of Open Library is that it’s driven by a strong community. It’s like Wikipedia for ebooks.
If the book had more than one edition, you’ll see them listed on Open Library. For instance, Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, first published in 1876, have 306 editions altogether and most of them have separate download directories.
On Feedbooks you can find both public domain (Public Domain section) and free contemporary books (Original Books section), both fiction and non-fiction. As the site is based in France, there are a lot of titles in French, as well as in other languages, not only in English.
The site offers RSS feeds of specific categories, so you can subscribe to them and get new books the moment they are added to offer.
The largest book discovery site, Goodreads, offers also books in epub format. The catalog is not huge, there are only 2,500 titles listed here, but they are very interesting ones. For instance you can download Harry Potter: The Prequel by J.K. Rowling, a short story set about three years before the birth of Harry Potter. It recounts an adventure experienced by Sirius Black and James Potter. The books are available in epub, pdf and txt format.
The site offers 29,000 free ebooks. The site is very well-organized and it’s easy to browse for books or follow recommendations. The book detail page displays not only the usual fields like the author or publish date, but also word count and the reading ease. The number of available formats is impressive. Epub included.
The site is an online ebook catalog, where you can find almost 30,000 titles – all of them are free. There are several categories to choose from. The most popular are Poetry, Juvenile Fiction, and Literary Collections.
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Google decided to enter the ebook business at a late stage, but there is one thing Google ebookstore is winning – simplicity. In fact, anyone with Gmail account or an Android device can start reading books without too much hassle.
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