How to download e-books for free

January 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
If you received an e-reader, an iPad, or a smartphone for the holidays, you know you can load lots of books onto that new toy. Even better, there are ways to get e-books for free.

Of course you can download books for a price with your credit card, but what you may not know is you can download books for free with your library card.

You know you can download books for a price with your credit card. What you may not know is you can download books free with your "library card.'' or, by using "no card at all."

"It's pretty awesome actually," said David Lim.

Lim has always been an avid reader, but even more so now that he bought a new electronic reader.

"Ever since I got one, I've been reading pretty much every day, mostly science fiction and fantasy," said Lim.

He says buying e-books costs anywhere from $5 to $30 on average, but now his Kindle is loading books for free with his Alameda County library card.

"Within another 5-10 minutes, I had a book in my Kindle ready to read," said Lim.

Public libraries throughout the Bay Area now offer thousands of e-books to borrow for free. Lim browses the Alameda County selection on his laptop, clicks on an adventure novel "Torrent'' and in seconds the book appears on his Kindle. It will stay on his kindle for three weeks, then automatically expire with no worries about paying fines for overdue books.

"I think it just opens the door for a lot more possibilities to read different kinds of books you wouldn't normally have," said Lim.

"Overall, overwhelmingly they love it. They love to have access to free e-books," said Trent Garcia from the San Francisco Public Library.

Garcia is the e-book librarian over at the San Francisco Public Library. He offers 14,000 titles and workshops on how to plug in.

"It's not the easiest system in the world to use, so it takes a little bit of time and effort," said Garcia.

The how-to depends of the kind of e-reader you have. A Kindle requires an account with the library and, plus you need a wifi connection. Borrowed e-books go from the library to Amazon then onto your Kindle.

With an iPad or Nook, you must download a free app for reading. The e-books go directly onto the iPad, but with the Nook you need to plug the device into a laptop and drag the book over.

"It can be a little complicated so, that's why we're here to help out," said Garcia.

Libraries aren't the only places with free e-books. Lim finds them on websites like the Gutenberg project and You don't need a card and they're yours to keep. You won't find best sellers there; those sites offer only the classics with expired copyrights, so they are in the public domain. There are great books like "The War Of The Worlds" and "Pride and Prejudice."

Within seconds, Lim has L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" on his Kindle.

"Actually, I didn't know there were so many free books out there. It's good to know," said Lim.

The public libraries buy a certain number of copies of e-books so there are limits to how many people can download a book at a specific time. Many public libraries have workshops that will teach you how to set up your e-reader for free downloads.