Focus on free #4: ManyBooks

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.


Mobile friendly site (directly from your Kindle)

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:

New Additions
Popular Titles
Recent Downloads
Special Collections
User’s Public Bookshelves
A List of eBooks in Series
Reader Recommendations
Random book
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:

  • Romance
  • Adventure
  • Mystery
  • Western
  • Horror
  • Fantastic
  • Drama

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.


9 Responses to “Focus on free #4: ManyBooks”

  1. Goldarn Says:

    Speaking of websites for the Kindle, I’ve been wondering — is there a way to get bookmarked sites on to the Kindle via my computer? You know, like how I can dump free books into the documents folder? Is there a “secret” file that is the kindle bookmarks somewhere that I could edit?

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Goldarn!

      I don’t know that you can edit the bookmark file itself (and Amazon forbids back engineering), but you could just make a file for yourself with the website URLs (say, in Word) and send it to Amazon for conversion. You could send it to your free address. You put it into your Kindle’s documents folder when you get it back, as I think you know…then you’ll have a file on your Kindle with those clickable bookmarks…

      Not elegant, but that should work. 🙂

  2. Goldarn Says:

    Yeah, the converted-file works well enough but, as you say, not elegant. *sigh*


  3. danielle ereader1 Says:

    Goldarn, Do you mean the web bookmarks on the Kindle web section? If that’s what you mean, Yes, you can edit them. When on the web, click Menu > Bookmark This Page.
    To edit or delete the bookmark, right or left “click” with your 5 way.

    I have added numerous sites to my bookmarks

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks, Danielle!

      I think Goldarn wanted to edit the file using a computer, rather than the Kindle’s menus. You are certainly right that you can change the bookmarks…I recommend people add . It’s a nice portal for mobile friendly sites. That’s through the Kindle interface, though. That can be slow…it would be nice if you could just slam twenty bookmarks in there at once. 🙂

  4. danielle ereader1 Says:

    Ah yes, that would be nice! Not that I can stand to use web too much LOL

  5. Goldarn Says:

    Yes, that’s what I meant—being able to edit the Kindle bookmarks on my Mac, like I can with my iPhone.

    And yes, it’s not that great a web browser, which is why I want to edit the bookmarks offline. Sadly, it doesn’t look like it’s an option.

  6. Greg Weeks Says:

    RE: copyrights outside of the U.S. for “The Planet Savers”

    Many countries implement what’s called “Rule of shorter term” and works from the U.S. that are public domain in the U.S. are also public domain in that country. It’s very much country specific though.

    • bufocalvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Greg!

      Yes, good point! It isn’t universal, as you say, and the US didn’t exactly embrace the concept, as I recall.

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