Alas, Project Gutenberg and most other public domain sites aren’t optimized right now for devices with small screens and slow browsers.
And free Kindle download guides—with links to public domain books—are not as easy and convenient to use as they could be in my opinion (TeleRead Co-Editor Paul Biba offers his thoughts later in this post).
What’s more, free editions of more than a few public domain books are AWOL in the Kindle’s bookstore. To my surprise, I couldn’t dig up one for A Journey to the Center of the Earth, the Jules Verne classic.
The glories of FreeKindleBooks.org
It will take you to thousands of Kindle books organized by author. I don’t know the exact title count, but the site at least passes the Upton Sinclair Test, as I’ll call it: I could find 21 of his books such as a The Money Changers.
Jules Verne (right photo) showed up with 34 titles. including Journey.
59 Dickens works, 49 by Twain and 7 by Austen
Fifty-nine works by Dickens (left photo), 49 by Mark Twain and seven by Jane Austen (less prolific than the other two) appear on FreeKindleBooks.org. Simply put, for people who like major public domain authors, this is more than just a vexingly abbreviated collection.
On top of that, you can use the site’s “experimental” mode and locate books by PG number—apparently all of the catalogue. Just go to the real PG and search for the title and accompanying number, then return to FreeKindleBooks.org’s experimental mode to download the actual book. If a desktop or laptop is handy, that might be a faster way to look up the PG numbers.
FreeKindleBooks.org, granted, has flaws. For one thing, there’s a lot of verbiage at the top, rather than the lists of writers (leading to title lists). But just keep scrolling down and you’ll find the lists.
How Kindle owners can use the Web browser with FreeKindle.org
Don’t be scared if you’ve never used the Kindle’s Web browser before or don’t mess with it often.
From the Home menu, just hit the Menu key, scroll down to Experimental, press joystick-style button, then go to Basic Web Browser if you’re not there already, which you should be. Press the joystick button again.
If the enter-Web-address rectangle is cluttered with a previously made entry, hit Menu again and choose Enter URL, using the joystick. Type in FreeKindleBooks.org and hit the return button (under the DEL on your keyboard).
Other possibilities for free easy Kindle downloads…
- Mnybks.net: Unfortunately I found it harder to use for direct Kindle downloads than FreeKindlebooks.Net was.
- Feedbooks.com: Yet another. Use http://feedbooks.com/?format=mobile. Neither it nor Mnybks.net will give you as many selections as FreeKindleBooks.net will with the “experimental’ feature in use. But Feedbooks does offer some of the best-formatted books online.
…Plus a reminder that you can copy books directly from your desktop machine to the Kindle…if the desktop is handy
With the above methods, you don’t need to have a desktop machine handy.
But with a PC, Mac or Linux machine, you can use your Firefox or other browser and download a book directly to your Kindle’s solid-state storage via a USB connection.
The Kindle comes with a USB cable. Plug it in between your Kindle and your desktop. Then do the download from your desktop browser after specifying that you want the file copied to the e-reader (a Documents subfolder) rather than the desktop.
The e-reader might show up as something like Drive K. Whatever is a drive you normally don’t see!
If you use a laptop instead of a desktop, just substitute the word “laptop” for desktop.
Additional thoughts—from Paul Biba: He favors download guides over a FreeKindle.org approach
After this post appeared in its original form, Paul kindly shared his own thoughts:
“There are two Kindle catalogs that I, personally, find more convenient to use than the web browser method that David mentions above. These are actual catalogs of the holdings of MobileRead and Feedbooks. You download them to your Kindle, either by using the browser or by downloading them to your desktop and then adding them as a book, and then you can open them and use the search function of the Kindle to find what you want.
“Both catalogs are updated frequently, I think weekly, so you can re-download them whenever you want and keep up to date. They are especially easy to update because both of them have links on their front page which w
ill automatically fire up the Kindle browser and download the latest catalog to your Kindle. The only thing you have to do, then, is to delete the old catalog as the new one does not overwrite it.
Needed: Easy downloads off the Gutenberg site
I would strongly urge Project Gutenberg to build a mobile site for Kindle-style machines, if that isn’t already planned—yes, more than just for the Kindle itself. PG seems to be moving in that direction. While cellphones are important, Gutenberg shouldn’t forget owners of Kindles and similar devices. Ideally the post I’m making now will soon be obsolete.
Granted, Sony and other vendors have Google Books ties, but PG is special because volunteers can choose which books to digitize (a plus that I wish Gutenberg would play up more often).
The ePub issue: I would vastly prefer that the existing FreeKindleBooks.org use the ePub standard. But meanwhile TeleRead will continue to serve the here-and-now needs of Kindle owners.
(Updated 10:28 a.m. EST to include Paul’s thoughts.)