There are basically three types of online ebook stores where you can get hold of ebooks to read on your ereader:
- Those that belong to one or other ereader manufacturer, such as the Sony Book Store, or Amazon’s Kindle Book Store. These only sell ebooks in the ebook format appropriate for their own ereaders.
- Independent commercial ebook stores, more or less equivalent to high street book shops, who sell commercially published ebooks only, and tend to offer ebooks in a range of formats when possible. Books on Board is a typical example of such a store.
- Independent publishers and distributors which are sites that offer authors the possibility to publish their own ebooks and have them distributed and sold by the site. A good example of this is Smashwords.
I wont waste any time on the first of these, as if you have an ereader, you will certainly have visited the online ebook store that is associated with your ereader already, and thus know all there is to know about it.
The second type, the online version of a high street book shop is more interesting as it offers ebooks that you might well not find on your ereader’s ebook store, and offers ebooks in a range of formats, but suffers from the dreaded geographical limitation that publishers and author’s agents impose on such ebook stores. This means that unless you happen to live in the country that the online ebook store is in, you will find that a lot of the ebooks on offer can’t be sold to you if you live in some other country. So if you happen, as I do, to live in Australia and want to buy an ebook from Books on Board, (which is based in the USA) you will often find that half way through the buying process you are suddenly confronted with the message “we can not sell this ebook to your country”. Infuriating message that is!!! Hate it with a passion.
And obviously as it is a commercial ebook seller, most of its ebooks are quite expensive as well – But if you want to read Stephen King and similar, it is one source of such ebooks.
The third type is actually the most interesting to ereader owners, particularly if you are prepared to take the risk of reading ebooks by people you have never heard of.
And as I said above, Smashwords is a very good example of this type of online ebook seller, though there are many others, but they are all much smaller than Smashwords.
So what does Smashwords offer us?
Smashwords offers authors the possibility to publish their ebooks there, and have them distributed and sold by Smashwords, so a great service for authors, that is certain. And for us readers it is also a great place to hunt for ebooks to read, regardless of the type of ereader you own, as all the ebooks available on Smashwords are published in the main ebook formats, and most also have no form of copyright protection, so you can move them from ereader to ereader without any trouble, which makes lending an ebook you really enjoyed to a friend with an ereader possible.
When you go to the home page of Smashwords – which by the way, has to be one of the ugliest pages on the Web, you are confronted with a set of choices, neatly and clearly laid out for us to choose from. Price range from free to $10 or less, how many words roughly, what sort of an ebook (History, thriller, Young Adult, Humour and so on). Having made your choices you are then offered a huge number of ebooks that meet your search criteria and in passing bump into the main problem with Smashwords – the sheer quantity of ebooks they offer, it is millions, so making a sensible choice is a real trick.
This problem is made worse by the fact that all the ebooks that Smashwords offer are written by self-publishing authors, and there is as far as I know, absolutely no form of selection on the part of Smashwords to ensure quality. so many of the ebooks you download may well turn out to be awful.. But if, like me, you restrict yourself to choosing ebooks that are free or as near as dammit free, then the risk of the occasional lousy ebook is not a real problem. If you buy an ebook from a well known author, for perhaps $14 and find you hate it, tough, whereas if you pay $0.90 for an ebook and find it not to your taste, well not really a financial disaster I feel. And to be honest, the great majority of ebooks I have downloaded from Smashwords I have found enjoyable enough at one level or another, not necessarily great literature, but quite readable.
As I indicated above, Smashwords offers ebooks in just about every category you can think of, both fiction and non-fiction. An amazingly big book store in fact is at your disposal for almost no money. So no matter what sort of ebook you are hunting for, you should find one there, though to be honest, in the area of non-fiction, I feel one should take care when using Smashwords as a source of such ebooks.. If the information you are needing is really critical, you should perhaps look to specialist ebook sellers for that rather than the non edited ebooks at Smashwords.
As is normal for such sites, all ebooks are represented here by a small image of the cover and a short synopsis, and should any ebook catch your interest you then click on the title, and are taken to the ebook’s own page where you will find a longer description of the ebook and probably one or more reviews by earlier readers of the ebook. You are also offered the choice of format, so it is essential that you know what format your ereader uses.
And that is it really, you find an ebook you want, buy it and it is downloaded to your computer for later transfer to your ereader… simple enough.
Obviously, if you have a tablet rather than a dedicated ereader, you can do all of this on your tablet, including the downloading, so no need to transfer it to your ereader, one of the advantages of a tablet over an ereader I suppose.
So, Smashwords is a source of free or cheap ebooks for all ereader and tablet owners out there, a huge range of ebooks to choose from, and all very easy to use. Well worth a visit thus say I.
Link to Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/
Share with us:
What are your experiences with Smashwords or similar? Is it a good idea to have these effectively unedited ebook stores out there or is it simply an invitation to bad writers to put their dreadful ebooks out there to trap us into spending money on them?