Some Thoughts on Free E-books

KindleHow often do you read free e-books on your Kindle? Always? Most of the time? Sometimes? Rarely? Does the fact that the book is free, make your reading process more enjoyable? Yes? No? Maybe?

As I’m looking for different sources for free e-books libraries, I come to conclusion that every single source for free e-books has some disadvantages. Aside from Project Gutenberg and (most of its books originate from Gutenberg), all of the free e-book libraries are highly commercialized. It really depends, which way a website owner decides to go – either infest a book catalogue’s pages with ads; create membership fees to highly disadvantage free membership’s choices; or even insert advertisement pages in the “free” e-books.

Of course, it’s understandable. There is absolutely no profit for these websites’ owners to invest their time in producing high quality free e-books. So, the free e-books theme is just a way for many to bring users to the website. And advertisements are their actual products. I see so many fake free e-book sites without real content – it’s starting to get on my nerves. It appears that all the domain names with “free e-books” are taken for these exact purposes. To find one site, be it with ads, but containing actual e-books, I go through ten fake ones.

I mean, really, ginormous kudos to Gutenberg for doing what they are doing. And if you are feeling generous, I do encourage you to make a donation to Gutenberg Project to keep them alive. It is tax-deductable.

Another issue with free e-books is that, of course, they are poorly edited. Even Amazon freebies’ content suffers in the quality: as some people noticed that most of Amazon Free Kindle books have editing errors (such as missing passages). Also, my beloved Gutenberg’s e-books are not all perfectly formatted. Read how to open KEY file.

Do you notice when a book is poorly edited? Does it bother you much?

9 thoughts on “Some Thoughts on Free E-books”

  1. Do I notice when a book is poorly edited? Oh very much yes. Not that this is specific to eBooks, but for heaven’s sake there is just no excuse in the shape of modern publishing for completely bogus words to make it into release copies. I understand the burden of proofreaders when it comes to tracking down typos that work out to valid words, but if a standard issue spell check would have found it… that’s just a sign of unprofessional publishing.

    Oh, but you probably meant that in the context of free eBooks; my vitriol is mostly aimed at the poor editing available in purchased models. I’m still frustrated, but far more forgiving, if the poor editing was provided to me at no monetary cost.

    As to the question of an eBook being free making the reading process more enjoyable, I’d say that no it does not. However, in some cases it makes the reading process take place at all. There are a number of books I’ve read (and then went on to either purchase that book physically, or other eBooks or paper books by that author) which I simply would not have ever tried had there not been a free version available to test drive. I truly wish more publishers would adopt the model that ended up as Baen publishing’s free library; that’s certainly brought more of my money to Baen than would otherwise have occurred.

  2. Certainly the editing and attention paid to the reading experience by too many publishers has worsened over the past decades. I recently noted in one store a reprint in what must have been 9 or 10 point type, which I defy anyone to assert provides a pleasurable reading experience. But typos have always been with us: the India published edition of a book by Jacqueline Susann, a big selling past author (Valley of the Dolls), was missing 40 pages. Alas, no reader seemed to notice for there were no complaints.

    Some older Gutenberg books are valuable (apart from the classics), like some largely forgotten novels of the 19th century–though not for too long. Present day reading tastes are too different.

  3. I read a fair amount of free books, but I try to only get the Amazon versions for one reason: Whispernet. I actually start a book on my Kindle, then continue it while I am away from home on my iPhone (or if my wife wants to read something on the Kindle). I know how to put Gutenberg books onto the Kindle, but it just isn’t the same if I can’t pick them up from one device and continue where I left off with another. That is important to me — although I recognize my situation is a little unusual.

  4. i have been introduced to a number of authors via free books and gone on to purchase others; there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that i would not have looked at these authors if not for the free books

  5. Most of the free ebooks I get are from Amazon or Smashwords or sometimes directly from the author and they are not public domain.

    Most of the free ebooks I read are just fine. They are pretty good stories and well edited and formatted. There are a few that cry out for editing and proofreading and just a couple that weren’t good in any way.

    Indie authors that offer their books for free as marketing, care deeply about their books and want their books to be a good reading experience. They carefully edit and proofread their books, their reputation depends on it.

    When more than one edition of a public domain book is available, it’s best to get the sample first. There are people out there trying to make a buck off of a free book but sometimes the OCR was poor and they weren’t proofread.

  6. It only bothers me when I’ve paid for it! One recent example is Foucault’s Pendulum. The book was still readable, but there was clearly little effort to clear up all but the most extreme OCR errors. (One word even had “}” in it).

    I do wish Amazon would cull the many free editions of various Gutenberg works, limiting it to the best formatted version of each. Currently I make my own or find better sources. Luckily there are a lot of good editions out there. I’ve yet to see a good one of Shakespeare, though.

  7. Yes, it does bother me when the book is an obviously unedited copy of an OCR edition. I even found one of a previously published in hard copy book that was of this category. I asked for a refund from Amazon and it was granted, but it should never have been released in that form. I later learned that the publishers often don’t save the electronic copy when the book goes out of print, which I consider the ultimate stupidity. It used to be that a printed book had maybe 3 errors in it, now it is common to see 3 errors per page.

    My second gripe is a book written by an illiterate author. If you don’t know the difference between “loose” and “lose” or “their” and “there” then get someone who does to proof read the book for you before publishing. It doesn’t have to be a professional editor, just someone who is more literate than you are.

  8. In the article, you say “Also, my beloved Gutenberg’s e-books are not all perfectly formatted.”

    The biggest problem as I see it is that these books for the Kindle are generally automatically generated from Project Gutenberg texts. Not all suppliers will do this with the same level of care, and results may vary. Project Gutenberg itself now offers mobi files directly from its catalog, but again they are automatically generated, and the results can vary depending on how the source file was formatted.

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