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What’s the best place to download free ebooks?

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Classy classics: Standard Ebooks is a brilliant resouce

There are plenty of sites out there offering free out-of-copyright ebooks for download, but it’s a lottery. Rough translations, poor formatting and incompatible formats for Amazon Kindle readers are common problems. However, there’s a new site out there that makes all of these problems go away….

Standard Ebooks: the best place to download free ebooks

Standard Ebooks is a not-for-profit, volunteer project that aims to “produce a collection of high quality, carefully formatted, accessible, open source, and free public domain ebooks that meet or exceed the quality of commercially produced ebooks”.

That’s quite a lofty goal, but if my tests are anything to go by, they’re doing a stand-up job.

I’d largely given up reading classics on my Kindle, because the quality of the books was so variable. Even if you pay for a properly formatted version on the Kindle Store, rough translations and other glitches are all too common.

Standard Ebooks takes texts from services you might already be familiar with, such as the well-known Project Gutenberg. It then “formats and typesets them using a carefully designed and professional-grade style manual, fully proofreads and corrects them, and then builds them to create a new edition that takes advantage of state-of-the-art ereader and browser technology.”

The end result is an ebook that’s every bit as good, if not better, than the technical standard of the latest bestsellers. There’s no bad hyphenation or random line turns, which are common hallmarks of out-of-copyright ebooks. There are no rough translations or typos. There are, however, features such as a full contents of chapters and book cover thumbnails, both of which are often absent from other free downloads.

Overall, Standard Ebooks makes reading the classics enjoyable again.

Which free ebooks are available to download from Standard Ebooks?

The full catalogue of books can be found from the Standard Ebooks library page.

It looks like there around 700 titles in the collection so far. They include many of the big hitters, such as:

The site has a great search facility, which makes it easy to find the title, author or genre you’re looking for.

How do I download the books to my reader?

Each title is published in multiple formats, which cover Kindle, Kobo and other ebook readers.

Kindle is, of course, the most popular and Standard Ebooks publishes these in the azw3 format. Annoyingly, you cannot use the Send to Kindle feature to transfer these to your device, you’ll need to plug your Kindle into a computer and transfer them manually. It’s not that difficult, though, and the site has full instructions on how to transfer books to your reader.

One small thing: Mac owners are directed to a rather complex workaround to access the hidden thumbnails folder on their Kindle, where you need to drop the book cover image. To access hidden folders on a Mac, it’s easier to just press Command + Shift + . (full stop) in the Finder window.

Amazon Kindle e-book reader

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About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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