There are a number of sources for free ebooks, either for use online or for download. Many of the "classics" are old enough to be in the public domain (including the works of William Shakespeare, Jane Austin, Lewis Carroll, and Mark Twain), so these works are generally available for free.

Uses of Free eBooks

In addition to being readable online, these books are available in simple, open file formats that can be easily transferred to and read on any device.

OPAC Integration: Free online ebooks can be included in your libraries OPAC. If your OPAC supports it and the catalog record is formatted correctly, your patrons can open the ebook by clicking on a link in the catalog record.

Stocking New eReaders: Schools that have purchased more than a few ereader devices often have difficulty deciding how to distribute a limited number of ebook titles across their devices. With free ebooks, libraries can add the same core collection of classics (dozens or even hundreds of titles) to every ereader device they own.

"Free" Recycled eReaders: Since many ebooks are available for download plain text (.TXT) format, they can be read on any smartphone or PDA device, no matter how old. For example, your library could solicit donations of old Palm, Windows Mobile, or Blackberry devices, chargers, and sync cables. (Hint: Make it clear in your publicity that you will give a written receipt for tax purposes and that the donor can watch as you will perform a "hard reset" to wipe out any of their personal data.) Stock these donated devices up with free .TXT ebooks, and make them available for checkout to students. Be sure to include a charger with each device, as battery life on a donated PDA will no doubt be limited.

Sources of Free eBooks

Project Gutenberg:
One of the oldest and most established sources, Project Gutenberg offers 36,000 ebooks that can be accessed online or downloaded in almost any e-reader format, from MOBI (Kindle) to TXT (plain text).

Google Books:
Use the "Full View Only" search limiter to display only free ebooks.

EPUB Books:
Free ebooks available for download in the EPUB format, which is compatible with most brands of eReader devices. (The Calibre software can be used to convert EPUB files to MOBI (Kindle) format, as long as the files are uncopyrighted and DRM-free.)