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How to Read Books Online

If you know where to look, you can find a wide variety of ways to read books online for free without breaking or bending any laws-- even recent bestsellers!

Reading books online is a great way to catch up on your reading, as long as you know where to look. Many books are available on the internet in a variety of formats. There are free (open source) programs available to get your reading material changed into a format you can use, if it happens to end up posted in a format you can't read.

How Ebooks Work-- Software, Formats, and DRM

You will find books for sale and for free in a wide variety of formats online. If you are looking for some free reading material, knowing what to do with the books you find is an important step toward reading your book. Here are many common ways you will find books available online, so you know what you're looking at when you find it.

Webpages/HTML files (ebook.html/ebook.htm)

Many free books come as simple webpages, formatted with basic HTML. To save an e-book formatted as HTML, you can right click and "save as" or use the file menu to "save page as" whatever comes up on the autocomplete. Most books to read online are presented in HTML, but the format will work from your web browser just as well offline as it will when you're connected.

Plain Text Books (ebook.txt)

Some of the places you go to download free books online will offer you plain text files. When you click on the link, it will load right into your browser window, probably with a rather old looking font and a lack of complex formatting. To save a text ebook, right click on the link that takes you to the book and select "save as..." You can save it under whatever name it comes up under, and read it with any basic text editor you have, probably even notepad.

Popular E-book Specific Formats That Might Have DRM

Adobe EPUB (ebook.epub). This format is growing in popularity among some ebook stores and many libraries. If you find a free DRM'd EPUB book you'd like to read, you can download software from Adobe's website to access your book. Lots of reader software and hardware supports non DRM'd EPUB files, making them easy to access. Warning: I've heard many of the ebooks available at Barnes and Noble's new ebook store for the Nook are using a format called "EPUB" that won't work with anything other than a Nook.

Amazon Kindle Format (ebook.azw/ebook.mobi). If you find one of these you'd like to read that is available for free, you can download a program on Amazon's website to allow it to show on your computer if you don't have a Kindle. The Kindle's DRM format (AZW) is just like the mobipocket format with a few small changes. Many ebook files can be easily converted to MOBI to use with a Kindle.

Adobe EPUB (ebook.epub). This format is growing in popularity among some ebook stores and many libraries. If you find a free DRM'd EPUB book you'd like to read, you can download software from Adobe's website to access your book. Lots of reader software and hardware supports non DRM'd EPUB files, making them easy to access. Warning: I've heard many of the ebooks available at Barnes and Noble's new ebook store for the Nook are using a format called "EPUB" that won't work with anything other than a Nook.

Palm Ereader (ebook.pdb). Ereader is a DRM ebook format that has a wide range of readers available for many mobile devices, from ipods to PDAs and phones. While there are many ebooks sold in ereader format in various stores, there aren't many dedicated e-book readers that support ereader format because Palm requires the devices that support ereader to only support ereader DRM.

Adobe PDF (ebook.pdf). PDF files are usually saved as images, unfortunately, which makes them a little bit difficult to manage or convert if you don't have a good setup for reading PDFs. Adobe Digital Editions (linked above) will work for managing DRM'd PDF files.

There are many other ebook formats out there, I'm just trying to cover some of the most popular. If you notice an ebook format that you feel is used widely enough to be included in my list, feel free to leave me a note in the comments.

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