These days, with nearly everyone owning or having access to a digital device, accessing classic books is easier than ever. Many classic works, including those commonly taught in schools such as William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens, and a great many others, can be found around the web as free and legal downloads. The challenge can be sifting through sites to find the best ones with the largest selection of both books and device formats. Luckily, whether you use an iPad, an e-reader, or just a computer, there’s a site for it, and plenty of content to fill your needs as an educator, parent, or student.
Google Play — Contains a large selection of free literature. Search for specific titles, then select “How to Read” to find the format of your choice. Google play can be the most difficult of the sites to navigate when looking by genre and author if you’re not looking specifically at “free” books, since searches can be muddled with pay versions of literature that can be found for free elsewhere. A good choice for intuitive downloading to an Android device.
Project Gutenberg — Much more deeply categorized than Google Play and containing a significantly larger database of free books, Project Gutenberg is ideal for both more obscure texts as well as popular classics. You can choose to read them online or download them in the format of your choice.
International Children’s Digital Library — Geared toward younger children, this site has a large selection of picture books that can be displayed in a browser. There doesn’t appear to be a way to download them, so a constant internet connection is required to view the books.
ManyBooks.net — Contains a solid collection of classic books, serving as an alternative to Project Gutenberg (while using it as a primary source) the site is easy to navigate through authors, genres and languages. Plus, each book can be downloaded in a large selection of formats.
eBooks@Adelaide — In case the other options weren’t enough, eBook@Adelaide offers yet another alternative to the previous sites. Read content online or download in one of the various common formats.
While many of these sites contain the same or very similar content, each one is a completely different navigation experience. Some are simple and well categorized and others take a bit more work to find what you want. Just remember, the newer the book, the less likely it will be listed (with the exception of Google Play, where you can purchase newer books in addition to the free classics). I recommend browsing through each to find which site works best for your needs. Plus, if you can’t find a book or the book in the format you need at one site, you can check another.
If you’d like to write a guest post for the ALSC Blog, please contact Mary Voors, ALSC Blog manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.