Are you a compulsive reader? One who would pick up anything and everything between the covers, and browse through the content almost anywhere - at home, in cafes, between client meetings, during commutes. Books can be your companions 24x7 now that you have better options than the old-school printed text. Almost every publisher comes up with a digital version of a new title. Old but popular titles have been turned into e-books. And best of all, you get to read many of them for free. It does not matter how you choose to read your book. Your e-book reader, tablet, laptop, smartphone and even an old desktop will be good enough to get you started on your reading journey. Keep reading and find out which companies are offering free e-books to keep you engaged and entertained.
Project Gutenberg: Set up in 1971 by Michael Stern Hart (he was the one who created the first e-book), this is an online platform featuring thousands of free titles. The concept behind it: Easy access to books and easy distribution. As of now, it has a catalogue of more than 60,000 e-books which can be read online or downloaded on your device. The portal claims to have great literature titles and focusses on older works whose U.S. copyrights have expired. You will find books in as many as 50 languages, but most of them are in English, German, French, Italian and Portuguese.
I would not call it one of the neatly designed portals, but I was able to find some engaging titles. A search bar on the top left can be used to look for books, either by title or by genre. For starters, there is also a list of top 100s. Gutenberg books are available in various formats, including HTML, EPUB (with and without images), Kindle (with and without images), plain text and more. You can also visit freemium sites like Open Library, Smashwords, BookBub and ManyBooks as all of them feature thousands of free e-books across all popular genres.
Kindle: One of the most popular e-book apps for free and paid books. Amazon's Kindle offers more than 1.5 million books, and if you are an Amazon Prime member, the app provides a rotating catalogue of hundreds of titles, for free. A dedicated 'Prime Reading' option has been added to the app that categorises books under literature & fiction, self-help, comics & graphics, romance, science fiction & fantasy, biographies, mystery and thriller & suspense along with books in Indian languages. I enjoyed reading My Life an illustrated autobiography of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Downloading is simple - click 'read now', and the e-books will be there in the app library. Amazon offers a wide range of e-book readers, but the Kindle app can be used on any device. It has the neatest user interface and some handy tools, including font, size and background options, search, dictionary, bookmarks, note-taking and text highlighting. You can also activate continuous scrolling for speed reading. There is a Kindle Unlimited service for a monthly subscription of Rs 169 that gives free access to more than a million titles. The downside: You cannot 'borrow' more than 10 books at a time from this collection. Return the books when you go overlimit and then download new ones.
Inkitt: With a huge repository of over 3,50,000 titles available for free, Inkitt is another go-to place for your kind of poison. It is a user-friendly and neatly designed app.
When I signed up for the first time, the service asked for my date of birth and areas of interest. Next, came the home page loaded with relevant suggestions. The app has four tabs - New, Popular, Reading Lists and Community. Under the first, I found a vast collection of books covering my interest areas. Tapping the book displayed a quick description, but I had to click on Read Now for opening it. One can continue to read it or download the book to My Library folder. I could change the font size, choose between scrolling and swiping, and select the background from white, eggshell and night owl. This seems to be a platform featuring budding authors but you will find some established ones as well.
Google Play Books: Many of us may not be aware that the search giant has a vast collection of e-books, audiobooks and comics, and several of them are free. Formerly known as Google eBooks, this app is neat and easy to get around, but the default display only lists e-books which can be purchased. Under the E-books tab, you will find books for Rs 50 or less, top-selling, new releases, genres and more.
Searching for a specific title is easy - just type it on the search bar at the top. Similarly, you can search for free e-books or go to Top Free under Bookshop and relevant results will be thrown up. Every time you access an e-book, it opens within the app. One can also change font size, bookmark the page, jump between chapters, search within the book, look up a word or add notes. Play Books can be accessed via smartphones and tablets and works on both Android and iOS platforms. You will also find similar apps such as Airtel Books, Apple Books and Wattpad.