My sources, let me show you them!
- Project Gutenberg - Perhaps the greatest electronic library online there is. Thousands of out-of-print books have been hand-typed (or scanned and edited) by volunteers and are now available as text, html, and other versions. I've added a number of classic authors to my collection, and the non-purchased books I mentioned above are all from Gutenberg.
- eReader & Fictionwise - Both of these companies have free eBooks to try out. Some are classics, but some are more contemporary. I've downloaded a selection of these, but haven't read any yet. The difference between the two stories is a matter of format. eReader.com only sells eReader-format books. Fictionwise sells a variety of formats, including eReader and pdf. They overlap for the most part (as might be expected).
- Baen Free Library - I was surprised (and delighted) when I discovered that science fiction publisher Baen Books had several eBooks available for free, trying to encourage people to try now, get hooked, and buy later. I'll probably be one of those types of people. :-) Although they don't offer the eReader format (whose software I like best out of the two programs I've tried, heh) they offer .rtf which I will discuss later. Anyhoo, I've got one of the Mercedes Lackey books started on my phone.
- Scribd.com - As a new convert to Twitter, one of the things I love best about it is finding out about new stuff from links that people post. Wil Wheaton (who's fun to follow on Twitter) posted a link to a novel available on Scribd.com and I've downloaded it and a few others. Like Baen, Random House is trying the drug lord method of book selling - offer free samples, then charge when they're hooked. You can read the books at the Scribd.com site once you've made an account, or you can download a .pdf (if the author/publisher allows) of the book to read later. I've downloaded a number of .pdfs for checking out later. I may wind up putting them on my Netbook (for which I've downloaded FBreader).
If you're looking for free eBooks, hopefully something in the list above will help you in your search.
Unfortunately, in the eBook world, there isn't a standard (yet). MP3s have pretty much become the de facto standard in electronic music, but it's still a desperate shoot-em-up in eBook formats. I'm hoping that ePub might be the answer (and that the eReader software eventually supports it).
I use the eReader format because I happen to like the eReader software on my phone. One feature is a dictionary look-up (which is why I paid for a dictionary) while you're reading. It has come in handy so far. It remembers where you left off, even if you switch books. It displays illustrations if there are any, which is handy too. Plus, I have the purchased books which sort of lock me into eReader as a software. The eReader format is based upon the Palm Markup Language (pml) just like the open source Plucker format is. But it's not the same, and eReader cannot open Plucker files and Plucker programs cannot open eReader files. So bummer there.
I had tried Vade Mecum on my Tilt. This is an open source software for reading plucker files. But it doesn't seem to still be in development and it's just not as user friendly as eReader is. I read all of Jane Eyre with it, but I switched to only using eReader while reading Cricket on the Hearth. So how can I read Project Gutenberg & Baen Library books using eReader? Ah, if there's a need, someone's probably written a program or extension for it... Let's visit our good & dear friend OpenOffice.org.
I use OO.o exclusively on all my home computers (rather than MSOffice). It's easy to use and FREE. And version 3.0 (which is on my Winders machines) can read those pesky docx (and related) files that MSOffice2007 creates. OO.o also has extensions available to it (similar to what Firefox & Thunderbird have). One extension it has is called odt2pml. It converts odt (open document, text) to pml (Palm Markup Language). So those text Project Gutenberg files and rich text files from Baen can be converted to pml. And eReader has a free program called DropBook which can convert pml to the eReader format. Sure, it's a few leaps, but I'm a geek and don't mind the hurdles. Well, actually, I'd prefer if eReader would read nonproprietary formats - especially the up-and-coming ePub format. But until it does or I find a better alternative which does, I'll use odt2pml.