by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
With the popularity of ereaders on the rise, and the advent of reading books on tablets or other mobile devices, public libraries have added resources that offer free downloads of ebooks, texts, documents, audiobooks and music.
Linda Oliver, head of reference at Bangor Public Library, said that the Maine InfoNet Download Library, a collection of ebooks leased from the vendor, Overdrive, a global digital distribution company, is one source where library patrons can download ebooks. Bangor Public Library is one of many libraries in Maine which participates in Maine InfoNet, Oliver said. “It’s one of the services libraries purchase ebooks from,” she said.
Ebook borrowers must have a valid library card from a participating library in order to use the service. Books may be checked out for up to two weeks. As many as three books may be borrowed at a time, including audiobooks, or a combination of ebooks and audiobooks. The materials come in a variety of formats, including Kindle and ePub. Borrowers cannot renew a title. Once the two-week borrowing time elapses, the ebook no longer can be accessed.
Brewer Public Library, Edythe Dyer Library in Hampden and Orono Public Library also are Maine InfoNet Download Library participants.
“Bring your device to the library and we can help you through it [the ebook downloading process],” OIiver said.
One of the advantages of reading on a mobile device, she said, is that every book is potentially a large print book. You can bump up the type size or alter the amount of backlighting to suit personal, individual visual needs.
The library also has other ebook resources available, including a link at the library’s website to Project Gutenberg — gutenberg.org — which offers books with expired copyrights, generally books published in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.
“I think it [reading on mobile devices] is becoming more and more popular. As the price [of devices] goes down, it has become very popular. We see our stats going up quite a bit,” Oliver said. “We have people come into the library on a regular basis to ask us to help them get started using ereaders. People who are passionate readers read in any format.”
Another source is the Hathi Trust, hathitrust.org, a partnership of institutions that has created a digital repository of items in their collections, Oliver said. It archives public domain materials and those that are still under copyright. The books in the public domain are often available in full view and can be read online. The books still under copyright have a limited view or only the catalog record. Most of these items are books in university collections, but it includes both fiction and nonfiction titles, she said.
Edythe Dyer Library, 269 Main Road North, in Hampden has a handout, “Where to Find Free eBooks,” available to its patrons. It contains this information:
- Google eBookstore: books.google.com/ebooks. Many free books, though most are available for purchase. Includes new releases.
- Scribd: scribd.com. Millions of documents including books, short stories, poems, pamphlets, brochures and government documents. Most can be read online. Downloading requires a Facebook account.
- Participates in Maine InfoNet Download Library. Best sellers of fiction, nonfiction, young adult and children’s books. Requires a valid library card from a participating library.
- Project Gutenberg: gutenberg.org. More than 33,000 older titles from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in many categories including fiction and nonfiction.
- Smashwords: smashwords.com. More than 30,000 titles from mostly self-published, independent authors. Some titles are free to download, others require purchase.
- Internet Archive, archive.org. More than 2.7 million titles, mostly nonfiction, contributed by academic libraries. Includes movies, music concert videos, audiobooks, music, podcasts, and the Internet Wayback Machine for viewing archived websites.
- Forgotten Books: forgottenbooks.org. Nearly 10,000 titles. Some Project Gutenberg overlap.
- Feedbooks: feedbooks.com. Thousands of ebooks, many free to download. Includes collection of public domain items that can be read on all mobile devices.
- Munseys: munseys.com. Offers links to thousands of out-of-print books, with more than 1,500 pulp fiction-era novels.
My favorite find at Project Gutenberg is many of the books by Maine writer Holman Day, whose “King Spruce” is considered his masterpiece. However, his “Rider of the King Log,” “The Ramrodders” and “Blow the Man Down: A Romance of the Coast” are equally enjoyable. Other gems available for free download at Project Gutenberg are books written by James Otis Kaler, who was born in Winterport in 1848. Kaler used James Otis as a pen name and at age 16 served as a reporter covering various battles during the Civil War. His “Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus,” published in 1881; “The Light Keepers,” published in 1906; and “Aunt Hannah and Seth,” published in 1900, are among a long list of his titles available at Project Gutenberg. Even though his novels are aimed at young readers, adults also will find them enjoyable reading.
“Be cautious when searching the Web for free ebooks,” Oliver cautioned. “Be cautious about using credit cards or giving personal information [on the Internet].”