Help! My E-Reader is Empty!

February 5, 2013 by  
Filed under current, Reading Space


I’m totally in love with my e-reader. I no longer have to battle with bulky books escaping my clutches in bed, or packing a book bag that is larger than my suitcase for a short trip away. But when you’ve got a device that can store thousands of titles, it can be challenging to fill up that space.

Here are three free (and legal) places that I often go to when I want to download an e-book. ‘Free’ in this context means I don’t have to purchase the e-book with my own money. However, the resources are funded in order to make e-books available. ‘Legal’ means that the texts available are offered legitimately (that is, they are not pirated versions).


I love, love, love this resource. eBooks@Adelaide is a large collection of digitised books, hosted by the University of Adelaide. The titles in this collection are in the public domain. In Australia, this means that copyright on that title has expired (which happens 70 years after the end of the year of the author’s death).

The selection is wide and varied, and you can search by author, title and subject area. Each title is available is a number of formats, including epub (suiting many e-readers, including tablets) and mobi (the Kindle format).

According to the editor, Steve Thomas: ‘Selection of titles is loosely based on what are described as “the Great Books”, but includes all manner of things that took the Editor’s fancy.’ And this booklover would like to thank Steve, as his taste runs to both the Canon and the eclectic!

I would recommend: If you’ve been captivated by the movie version of Les Misérables, perhaps you might like to check out an English translation of the Victor Hugo novel it was based on. Perhaps you are in the mood for a dashing romantic saga that encompasses both the American Civil War and Reconstruction that features a GLS (’Great Love Story’. And by ‘great’, I don’t necessarily mean ‘Happy Ending Guaranteed’…) One with a heroine so strong that nothing – neither war nor love – can destroy her? Then you might like Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind.

Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg (PG) was the first, and remains the largest, collection of free e-books. It can be found here, with a special Australian portal here. Again, these titles have passed into the public domain.

Although the PG range is greater than that at eBooks@Adelaide, the PG site is a little harder to navigate. The files are often in ‘text’ or ‘html’ format, which means that while you can read them on your e-reader, there may be more formatting issues than you are used to. For me, however, the breadth and range of the available titles far outweighs any of these difficulties.

I would recommend: If Fifty Shades of Grey sizzled up your synapses, then Lady Chatterley’s Lover is positively guaranteed to melt your e-reader…

Your local library

Libraries are increasingly offering access to e-resources. My local library offers e-books through a service called Overdrive. Other services are available at other libraries. Note: you need to be a member of a library that subscribes to a service like Overdrive in order to use it.

These collections differ from the ones I’ve discussed above in a few ways:

1. You are borrowing the e-book, and you are not able to keep it. (Nor can you share it with other people.) The e-book will self-delete itself from your device at the end your borrowing period.

2. The e-books will be protected with DRM (digital rights management).

3. The titles are not limited to what is in the public domain. Overdrive has entered into commercial arrangements with publishers in order to make these books available to you.

4. Because of (3), recently published titles are available to you. Including recent releases! And from my perspective, this makes Overdrive a sensational service.

So that’s a quick tour around some of my favourite e-reader resources. What are you currently reading on your e-reader? Do you have any resources you’d like to share?

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About Our Reading Space Contributor

CarolynLeslie 250Carolyn Leslie is an IPEd-accredited editor, a writer, an award-winning book reviewer and a business chick, as well as Mama to two little boys. Carolyn loves books, blogs, op shops, gardening, mucking around in the kitchen and dancing crazily with her kids (and sometimes even with her husband). She dreams of someday having a quiet and (totally) uninterrupted read…

You can follow her on twitter @carolynleslie. Or if email is your thing, drop her a line sometime at



7 Responses to “Help! My E-Reader is Empty!”
  1. Chris Owen says:

    The only one of these I knew about (and only vaguely at that) was Project Guternberg!

    JUICY juicy info here thanks Carolyn!

    I’m off to get me some more reading!!

    • Carolyn Leslie says:

      Chris, I tend to use my e-reader for latest reads, best-sellers and hot new books. Writing this post reminded me of how much I love out-of-copyright classics, such as those found on eBooks@Adelaide. I’ve decided to spend more of my e-reading time re-acquainting myself with authors that I love, such as Dickens, Fanny Burney, Miles Franklin. And discovering some authors that I’ve been meaning to check out for a while (like Elizabeth Gaskell).

  2. Thank you Carolyn – this was a most timely post!

    My husband gave me an iPad mini for Christmas, and I’d run out of books (and discovered how expensive they are to buy electronically) – it somehow makes it so much harder to justify paying for a novel when you can’t loan it to your sister or your best friend easily.

    So I’ve just taken a wander and downloaded some old favourites and a couple of gems I’ve had on my reading list forever. Hooray – no more empty iPad!

    Love your recommendations too. I’m renewing my love of Louisa May Alcott and Alexandre Dumas. Looking forward to rediscovering Miles Franklin when she’s not a set text at school!

    • Carolyn Leslie says:

      Karen, the pricing of e-books is an interesting – and complex – issue. I think one of the big challenges for publishers and e-tailers is getting around that feeling of resistance about paying for something that (at the moment) you aren’t supposed to lend to others.* It cuts into one of the emotional reasons people buy printed books – to give, to pass around, to share. I think the ability to legally ‘share’ an e-book will come. Part of the problem is that the technology is still new, and legislation that relates to copyright and digital rights is still being worked out. Amazon are developing technology that will allow you to re-sell ‘used’ e-books, and that will be interesting to watch. My genuine hope is that somehow authors will receive payments from these twice-sold e-books!

      *There are ways that you can ‘lend’/pass-on e-books to others. But the legalities of doing this are, at best, murky. For this reason, I decided not to canvas the issue in this post. Rather, I wanted to highlight e-book resources that were breaking neither the letter nor the spirit of copyright law…

  3. Chris Owen says:

    Having not used my local library for a LONG time, I am so pleased to share that I have last night downloaded 2 ebooks from the library!!
    Thanks soooooooo much Carolyn I had NO idea I could!

    • Carolyn Leslie says:

      Woohoo Chris! Libraries are awesome places, and the services they now provide are extensive and wonderful. Overdrive is terrific for audiobooks and videos as well. And there’s also a service called Freegal,which my library (Yarra Plenty) offers. You can download 3 songs per week…at no cost to you. Totes legal and ‘free’! But the cool thing about borrowing items through a library (in Australia) is that the authors and writers get paid. I might write about that in a future post (because I do believe that artists/writers/creators should get paid if profits are being made.)