eBooks are around us. Do you know how to find them? What apps should you use? Do you know how to publish one? This epic eBook guide will help you understand how to download ebooks, use ebookstores, and how to find free and inexpensive ebooks and how to self-publish. (If you’re not sure why you should be interested in ebooks, read 11 reasons eBooks can improve your life.)
What Do I Get To Read Ebooks?
First, you need a reading device or app. An ebook reader is a device designed specifically for reading ebooks. If you want a book on your PC, tablet or smartphone, download one or all of the five most useful ebook reading apps (I have all 5):
Fantastic Five eBook Reading Apps
- iBooks for iTunes (works on Mac or iOS Devices)
- Kindle apps or a Kindle reading device for Amazon (available on any kind of device)
- Nook app or a Nook device for Barnes and Nobles (available on any kind of device)
- Google Play Books for Google (available for Droid or iOS)
- Kobo App – a popular app for independent authors and many popular authors who are self publishing
How Do I Pick An ebookstore?
Once you have a reader, you’ll need to get the books. eBookstores are one way to get ebooks. Just like with real bookstores, people prefer different ones based on convenience, price, and book availability.
I have iBooks but use Kindle more because I have a Kindle Paperwhite. (I get interrupted less often.)
In January, Google Play Books gave away some best-selling spy novels, so I downloaded and used “Play Books” because it saved me $15 a book. If you read but want to save money, you could have all five apps installed to be ready to get a deal on a cool book you’re dying to read.
How Do I Buy A Book?
You’lll need an account and then you purchase and send to a registered device or app. On Droids you can buy directly from Google Play, on iPads you can buy iBooks directly from the App Store and on Kindle reading devices (not apps) you can buy directly from Amazon.
But everything on Apple Devices is different. Because Apple requires that companies give them a percentage of anything sold “in app,” Amazon and others disabled in-app book purchasing. Instead, you go directly to a bookstore’s website to buy and send straight to your eReading app on your iPad or iPhone. (There’s a great video on this page explaining how to purchase Kindle books on your ipad.)
What about free ebooks? 5 Places to Go At Your Favorite eBookstore
Oddly enough, you do have to have an account to download the “free” books in any of the bookstores. For iBooks, go to the free section of the iBooks store inside the App store. (I can’t give you a link, you’ll have to go there.) Here are links to the top “selling” free ebooks on the other major stores:
- Amazon: http://j.mp/kindle_free
- Barnes and Nobles: http://j.mp/nook_free
- Google Play http://j.mp/googleplay_free
- Nook Daily Finds http://www.barnesandnoble.com/u/ebook-nook-daily-find-bargain-deal/379003102
- Kobo Daily Deal: http://store.kobobooks.com/#daily-deal
Who needs to know how to download ebooks?
Make sure your college or high school student is set up to do this. If you have a smartphone, tablet or PC, you might as well set this up so you can use it if you need it. Especially for the classics they’ll need to read in literature, you can get most of those for free.
Quick Tip for Getting Almost Anything on Your Kindle
There is also a trick that works for most ebook readers. For example, as I’m working on my third book (which I will self-publish), I export it from Scrivener to .mobi format for Kindle and then I plug my Kindle paperwhite into my computer. I just drag the .mobi file onto my Kindle into the folder for my books. It is there and ready for me to read and edit. You can do this with your student books as well. Most devices can be plugged in with a cable and they look just like a jump drive. This works with files you download too and is a quick time saver if you’re struggling.
Finding Free and Inexpensive eBooks
Let’s explore some free ebooks now. To prepare to download free ebooks from websites, you need to know the format that you need to get the ebook onto your ebook reader. A common format is .PDF which stands for “Portable Document Format” made by Adobe. Kindle is in .mobi format while lots of other apps use .epub. Most websites are good about telling you which format they have. Make sure you download for “Kindle” or “Nook” or “iBook.”
Get it while you can
Here’s the one big trick on free ebooks. If you think you might want it, download it RIGHT THEN because many free ebook deals are for a limited time only. I have a collection on my Kindle called “On Deck” where I put books I might want to read. You don’t have to worry about filling up your ebook reader, because you can always delete them and leave them in your digital library online to download any time you can.
10 Places to Find, Download and read Free or Inexpensive eBooks
Let’s look at some places to help you find, download, and read free and inexpensive ebooks.
1. Project Gutenberg
For classic books, project Gutenberg has more than 40,000 free ebooks. This is the first place to look for classics for that lit class.
Meet your new personal research assistant and bargain hunter. This website tracks prices, freebies, and price drops but will also watch your favorite authors and books you want to read for you. If you love books and certain authors and are on a budget, this is a must use site. Go to it, click log in and get started.
3. Free Booksy
Featuring Kindle, iBooks, Nook and Kobo, this site shares free ebooks wherever they are.
4. Book Bub
This website is recommended by my favorite self publishing guru Joanna Penn and is a neat place to find new books. You can get limited time free ebooks. When you join, you tell BookBub what kinds of books you like to read and you can say what platforms you like to read. I LOVE BOOK BUB!
This is another website with personal recommendations and shelf tracking.
6. Hundred Zeros
Lists lots of free ebooks (for Kindle) by genre. (Note, there is no “e” in this zeroes please see info on this usage.)
You can’t ignore Goodreads, especially because Amazon bought them and now at the end of every Kindle book, it prompts you to put your star recommendations in. Goodreads is a social network for those who love books. (Here’s my author page. If you’ve written books, author pages give you a cool way to interact with readers. I love Goodreads for helping me see what my friends are reading.)
8. What Should I Read Next?
This is a great tool because you don’t have to create an account. Type in the name of an author or book you love and it will recommend one for you. This service doesn’t care the price of the book, though, just if it is a good fit for you, so use this if you don’t mind paying for a good book.
9. Which Book
In this service, you say your mood and it gives you recommendation. I don’t recommend this one for kids at all, but it is sort of like a netflix or pandora for books — you have to say what you feel like and it will recommend books based on that. Again, this lists books of all prices.
For more tech savvy readers – this is an ebook SWISS ARMY KNIFE!
Calibre is an app that converts ebook formats. For example, if you want to get a deal on a book at Google Books and read it on your Kindle, you’ll be buying in epub format. To convert to Kindle’s .mobi format, use Calibre. It lets you buy books just about anywhere and send them just about anywhere (and you can save a lot of money doing this, especially with the deals in the Google Bookstore lately on very popular authors.)
eBooks and Your Local Library
Remember that you can check out books at many libraries using the Overdrive app. They have a certain number of digital copies, so sometimes you have to wait, but this is my favorite way to grab an audiobook for when I am driving in the car.
7 Essential Resources For eBook Creators
There are several resources that I highly recommend if you want to publish ebooks yourself or with your students. I recommend reading the best guides available. Every single book and resource here I’ve read or listened to personally and they have helped me as I’m preparing to publish my third book.
1. 5 Free Easy Ways to Publish eBooks by AJ Juliani (a guest post on this blog)
In this guest post, AJ Juliani writes a handy ebook publishing guide for teachers including Liber.io, Draft, iBooks Author, LeanPub and (believe it or not) PowerPoint/ Keynote. (AJ also authored an awesome free ebook “Teach Above the Test” on his blog that you should download.)
2. APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur-How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch
Hat tip to my friend Sylvia Martinez who says this was her and Gary Stager’s guidebook for self publishing Invent To Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. I am reading this book now and it is incredibly useful.
3. Write. Publish. Repeat. (The No-Luck-Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success) by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant
I LOVE THIS BOOK. It has helped me so much. While it is written by some somewhat irrelevant, quirky authors – they are modern day workhorses who write lots of things that interest them from stories about Fat Vampires to Alien worlds. But don’t let your lack of interest in their genre dissuade you or their somewhat profanity laden podcast Self Publishing Podcast dissuade you, this is a fantastic must read for wannabe authors.
Joanna Penn is a fiction author under the name of JF Penn but she also has an amazing, practical book and podcast. I’m her newest and most ardent fan. I’m so glad that Sean and Johnny mentioned her in their book (listed above.) It has opened my eyes to how I’ll market my first book and all of the tools that I can use in that effort (Hopefully this October.)
5. The Creative Penn Podcast by Joanna Penn
This podcast a MUST LISTEN TO. In fact, anyone who teaches writing would love her interviews with some of today’s best authors. (English teachers will love her interview with AJ Hartley who has adapted Shakespeare in amazing ways with modern literature including a popular adaptation of Macbeth.) She’s so endearing and has one of those podcasts that I’m going back through to find older episodes. I also found the next book recommendation on her podcast.
6. Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day by Todd Henry
What is the most valuable real estate in the world? The cemetery: because that is where all the books that were never written and the businesses that were never started are buried. This book gives you a gift: clarity. Clarity and focus.
If you want to figure out what creative project to work on next – read this book! (Listen to Joanna Penn’s interview with Todd about managing your creative rhythm. Wow.)
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