Focus on free #4: ManyBooks
This is the fourth in a series of posts that highlight a place to get free e-books. You can find articles in that series here.
ManyBooks is one of the most popular of the free book sites amongst Kindleers. The navigation is straightforward, and there is that social element (books are reviewed and “bookshelves” can be made public).
While many of the books from Project Gutenberg, there are books from other sources (including some new books which the rightsholders choose to distribute for free).
They claim to have 26,474 ebooks. You could read a free book every day for about 72 years. :)
One of the unusual features (and something you don’t have at PG), is the ability to simply flip through pages of (usually) color covers. That kind of gives you that feel of being in a bookstore…remember those? :) Hey, you could even be drinking coffee and sitting in a comfy chair…it is like a bookstore! ;)
The genre listing is extensive (including more offbeat things like “banned books”, “pulp”, “Canadian literature”, and “post 1930″), and again, in a nice touch, they let you browse by Library of Congress categories. The pulp category got me 339 results…nice!
The advanced search lets you do a good job of narrowing. Hey, I like having the choice of languages from Afrikaans to Welsh…and there were 59 books just under Esperanto!
They have a ton of formats, including AZW (for the Kindle specifically), mobi, EPUB, PDF…even rb for those old Rocketbooks. It will remember the choice that you made for format the next time you go to download…which makes it easier to grab several in one session. Interestingly, though, when I chose Kindle, it didn’t work…it seemed to want my device key. I could download mobi and use it fine, though.
They give you several special ways to look:
User’s Public Bookshelves
A List of eBooks in Series
Cover Image Gallery
I find that list of ebooks in series particularly good, and unusual for most sites. It’s not just books that say they are in a series…for example, they list Allan Quartermain as a series. That’s reasonable to say, certainly, and it helps you find the books that feature that character…even though they weren’t released with numbers on the covers. :)
They give you nine issues of Astounding (an old science fiction magazine).
They also do a great job of letting you go from one book to another. When you go to a given book’s page, there are links to the author, the genres, the Library of Congress category…even to the original site.
On that product page, you can also see an excerpt, and read reviews (if any).
Let’s dig a little deeper into one of the Special Collections. This is something that sets the site apart from others. On this page:
you get several subcategories, and within the categories, you get recommended titles. The categories include:
I have to say, though, I’m not sure I concur with all the categorizations. My Man Jeeves is under Drama…okay, so they don’t have a humor category, so I guess it does go there. It’s also certainly an incomplete list. For example, they don’t list Zorro…I guess Antonio Banderas might be disappointed. ;)
Back to the book listing, you also get a word count and a page count. That page count would let you calculate where you should be in the book if you were in a book club or given an assignment in class.
I tried registering for the site, and found it a little awkward. I appeared to be able to log in with the default password they gave me, but when I tried to change it, it kept telling me I wasn’t logged in.
Then, however, it did work later from the main screen…it may have been working fine, but just had confusing messages.
You do not need an account to get the books, but if you have one, you can then create “bookshelves” and write reviews. It also interacts with Library Thing.
The site has links for a number of conversion programs (from one format to another), although I’d say they could be more descriptive. For Calibre, which can do a number of conversions, it just says “for ePUB format”.
As to a little local flavor, they give you some statistics on books downloaded. Apparently, though, they haven’t done one for 2009. In 2008, the most popular title was The Art of War by Sun Tzu, with over 34,000 downloads. There were about 4.5 million downloads in total in 2008. That compares to 3.8 million in 2007…which shows a considerable jump. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a file for 2006, which would be the year before the Kindle was released. Looking at 2005, though, there were only 1.8 million titles downloaded…that’s a big increase! My intuition would be that the Kindle was a big part of that…I see ManyBooks mentioned many times in the forums. The Art of War is still one of the most popular books this week…it might be old, but it doesn’t get old. :) Even when I managed a brick and mortar bookstore, that was a popular seller…mostly to businesspeople.
Oh, and you can filter the search. In case you were wondering, the most popular book in Esperanto this week has had five downloads. ;)
The most popular science fiction book is The Planet Savers, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
That brings up another important point. The Planet Savers was released in 1958. While it may be in the public domain in the US (due to a failure to renew or an improperly displayed copyright notice), it may not be in other countries. Unlike some sites, ManyBooks doesn’t make a point of letting your know that the book may not be in the public domain in your country.
Overall, Matthew McClintock, who maintains the site as a public service, has done a nice job in making these books available in a variety of formats, and makes finding them on the site easy. The site assumes a certain level of technical expertise…you can find some step by steps, but it takes a little digging (and points you to other sources).
If you are comfortable transferring files, you’ll find ManyBooks to be a good place to find e-books, regardless of your device.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.