Online e-books are a good way to read books while on holiday, or while catching a few spare minutes waiting for planes etc. Gavin McLachlan offers a few of the sites he uses to browse for free e-books.
There are lots of sites offering such downloads and Amazon has monetised this very successfully with its Kindle which hooks into its catalogue.
Very much like iTunes does with music and other large booksellers (Note! Not the publishers themselves, yet.) are following suit whilst there are quite a few separate e book readers as well.
I am waiting for the "next generation" to roll out in early 2010 though the Foxit E Slick looks good especially as it is not limited to a small enchanted garden of "approved" formats. The tablet type book readers to come could be very worthwhile especially if fitted with appropriate connectivity.
I think this trickle of devices will become a flood especially as the right sort of fairly rugged and easy to use web connected e-book readers become available, especially in less affluent countries.
It will also change the textbook industry dramatically as it will be all about easily updated web accessible content at a reasonable price and not about packaging and distribution expensively via a select few.
There will be lots of money for the ones who establish themselves in this way and I think the nature of the publishing industry will change irretrievably.
The "long tail" will also be visible although the death of copyright after 30 to 50 years will mean that so called classics will be free at all times.
E-books will encourage rather than discourage reading and much more will be available to many more people for much less.
Wait until newspapers and magazines can also be accessed easily on colour e-ink screens to see the first phase of the revolution really complete. They'll also have to become multimedia presentations and not just be "flat" broadsheets churned out by hacks.
Some sites to totter through:
Project Gutenberg : 28 000 free e-Books and 100 000 available from their partners
Scribd : online document sharing site which supports PDF and other popular formats
GetFreeEBooks: as it says, free e-Books
Free Book Notes: every site and page listed in this guide offers quality eBooks for absolutely no charge.
Free Book Spot : as it says
Manybooks : provides free e-Books for your e-Book Reader (as and when you get one...)
Planet PDF free eBooks : a small collection of classic novels all in PDF format
Wikibooks : a Wikimedia community for creating a free library of educational textbooks that anyone can edit
Feedbooks : universal e-reading platform where you can download thousands of free eBooks
Planet eBook:- classic literature for download as free e-Books
BookYards - a web portal with free books, education materials, information, and content
Baen Free Library : various free e-Books in one of several formats without conditions and strings attached
Adobe Free eBooks : download, unlock, and read electronic books on your personal computer or reading device
Alive & Free : a page of links to some recent books from living authors available free online.
Planet eBook : free classic literature to download and share.
e-Library : Plenty of free e-books available for download.
E-Books Read : Provides e-books, dictionaries and manuals http://www.ebooksread.com/
A good few e-book readers are available, but as Gavin mentions about the physical readers, these often don't support all format, but specialize in a few, or sometimes only their own format. Here is a list of a few to use:
Adobe Digital Editions - http://www.adobe.com/products/digitaleditions/
Digital Editions also supports industry-standard eBook formats, including PDF/A and EPUB.
Kindle for PC - like the Amazon Kindle hardware, but for your PC