Fill my tablet: ebook edition
February 4, 2014 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Because my family is wonderful and great at picking up hints, I got a Nexus 7 for Christmas. I want to fill it with books to read, since this was a huge part of the reason I wanted a tablet. I've already looked through (and pulled into the tablet) the top books on Project Gutenberg, the Baen free library and the Baen CD library; now I want to find the hidden gems and start buying books. Details inside.

My question is three-fold.

1. Is there a better way of searching Project Gutenberg beyond already knowing what you want to read? Some sort of curated list of good books? Something? It's kind of... overwhelming.

2. Am I missing anywhere that has good free ebooks?

3. I need a good ebook store. Ideally, it should have just about anything -- if I can find it in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I should be able to find it there. Requirements: the books must be in EPUB format and either DRM-free or easy to un-DRM. (If I'm going to be spending money, especially on books I already own in their physical form, I want the ebooks I buy to stay readable whether I want to open them on my computer, on my tablet [using Aldiko], on my iPhone [using iBooks] or on any device I might use in the future.)

I'm in the UK, if that makes a difference.

Bonus points for an ebook store matching the above criteria that also sells books by Italian authors in Italian (it can be the same or a different one -- in other words, I'm fine buying books in English off one store and books in Italian off another).
posted by sailoreagle to Grab Bag (15 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
You are missing the part where you can download the free Kindle app for your Android and get piles and piles of contemporary free books from Amazon. I read through hundreds of these and while I enjoy loads of them, I maintain a particular small list of Kindle Freebie Worth the Read. (If you like science fiction or post-apocalyptic novels, I highly recommend Wool and Arcadium off that list.)
posted by DarlingBri at 11:00 AM on February 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

1. Is there a better way of searching Project Gutenberg beyond already knowing what you want to read? Some sort of curated list of good books? Something? It's kind of... overwhelming.

You could start with Gutenberg's 100 most popular lists.
posted by payoto at 11:07 AM on February 4, 2014

My local library has current ebooks for loan from their website via OverDrive. It's free and has great modern ebooks.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:10 AM on February 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

This is a project that was posted to the Projects section by Pronoiac and then main MeFi a few months back:

Then I found the Magic Catalog, an ebook index of Project Gutenberg books, linked up so that you can immediately download books and add them to your Kindle, without using a computer or Amazon. It’s in a useless order, though – it’s not sorted by the book title, or by author.

So I thought I’d fix that. Here’s the prototype, sorted by the author’s last name!

posted by Captain_Science at 11:15 AM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

They're not the best, but the Gutenberg "bookshelves" offer some level of finding things by broad topic.

For instance
Science Fiction Bookshelf
Best Books Ever Listings

Or just look through all the Bookshelves.
posted by fings at 11:28 AM on February 4, 2014

Requirements: the books must be in EPUB format and either DRM-free or easy to un-DRM.

Are you familiar with the application Calibre? It's a bit like iTunes-for-eBooks in that it runs on your computer and maintains your library. It can convert formats (EPUB, MOBI, PDF, Word docs, text files, whatever) and it's pretty trivial to add a plug-in that will strip DRM so you can convert those, too. It's a little intimidating at first (and it could really use an interface overhaul) but it's very powerful and once you're used to it it's pretty easy to deal with. As a bonus, it will leave your library of books in nicely organized folders so you won't be locked in if you don't like it.
posted by bcwinters at 11:29 AM on February 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Download Calibre (it's free) to your computer. The follow Apprentice Alf's directions for loading the Calibre plugins that will strip DRM from any of your files (especially Amazon files). Calibre will convert almost any format to almost any other format, and you can tag and organize to your heart's content within it.

If you like scifi/fantasy, has some of their anthologies available for free on, and probably also on their site as well.
posted by rtha at 11:33 AM on February 4, 2014

Response by poster: Trying to avoid thread-sitting, but -- yeah, I am aware of Calibre, and have it installed. I have no idea what DRM-stripping plugins exist and for which stores, though, and the few times I converted an ebook from another format (which wasn't PDF, I know that's harder to convert) to EPUB I ended up having to go in and manually fix formatting before it was readable.

I plan on having a really extensive library, so the less steps the better -- hence the wanting it all in one app (I don't want to play "where the heck is that ebook" when I feel like reading), ideally buying it off one store, having it already in EPUB, and so on.
posted by sailoreagle at 11:35 AM on February 4, 2014

Besides here I work at Open Library. We lend books (using Adobe's DRM scheme) and we also have a million classic titles available. Some of these are things available via Gutenberg and some are not. The thing that can be useful is that people can make lists. That link takes a while to load but you can sometimes fine groups of related titles (like type specimen books) which can help you find related stuff (you can also search by language so you can find ebooks in Italian)

I also use Calibre with the ApprenticeAlf link that rtha included but yeah there's the downside to occasional weird-o formatting but it's worth a shot and it's a good ebook manager even if you don't take advantage of the DRM-stripping.

Defective-by-design has a good list of publishers and bookstores that have ebooks without DRM.
posted by jessamyn at 12:43 PM on February 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

jessamyn beat me to the punch with the Open Library suggestion. Though, I've been disappointed with the epub formatted books I've checked out from there; most seem machine-made from book scans, so there's a lot of gobbeldygook. As others suggested, you could try your own public library's ebooks - which probably have DRM, though you may be able to read them on different devices before the return period ends (I can with the books from my library - I read both on an Android tablet and an iPhone).

If you like scifi/fantasy, has some of their anthologies available for free on, and probably also on their site as well.

Additionally, most (all?) Tor UK ebooks are DRM free.
posted by bluefly at 1:04 PM on February 4, 2014

Best answer: I buy my DRM-free epubs at the following sites:

Kobobooks, both with and without DRM, but at least they specify the DRM level. Many -rather bad- free ebooks.
ChiZine has a bunch of (mostly) Canadian authors of fantasy and SF like Nick Mamatas or David Nickle.
The Robot Trading Company has also a nice assortment of various genres.
Smashwords has also a lot of free, but very bad, ebooks, and the odd published author who wants to sell novellas. Recced: Saladin Ahmed's free short stories compilation, Jonathan L. Howard's short stories.
posted by sukeban at 2:37 PM on February 4, 2014 sells lots of SF that I like, without DRM.

The forums are jam packed with experienced readers eager to share technical knowledge and finding help.

Marvin is a truly wonderful reader app for your phone, offering better layout, fonts, metadata control, folders &c.

posted by Jesse the K at 3:04 PM on February 4, 2014

Best answer: -Project Gutenberg Australia operates under a different set of copyright laws than its American counterpart, which allows it to offer certain post-'27 classics and authors: Woolf. Wolfe. Orwell. Fitzgerald. O'Neill.
-The Mobileread forums take similar advantage of the Canadian public domain to provide handsomely formatted works by Sayers, Tey, and Runyan.

(Naturally, your native land's copyright regime might differ from the above, etc. etc.)
posted by Iridic at 12:46 PM on February 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: And you should probably look into this thread.
posted by Iridic at 12:47 PM on February 5, 2014

An exciting resource I recently discovered is the Open Culture Project. In addition to free ebooks, you'll find audiobooks, movies, classes, and more there. They bill themselves as "The best free cultural & educational media on the web."
posted by ReginaHart at 8:55 AM on February 7, 2014

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