The best online book reading sites

Posted on: 15 July 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Literature is thriving on the web. It’s not just for sale on mega-sites such as Amazon either, but being swapped, analysed and recommended by fellow bookworms.

You can download page after page of free material, post your work online and — dare we say it — even catch the eye of a publisher.

Here’s a list of the top ten online sites for book reading.

1) DailyLit.com

Fancy a daily dose of literature? Just sign up, select a book (the emphasis is on out-of-copyright classics, and most are free), then set aside a few minutes a day to read the pages the site e-mails to you at whatever time you choose. The text is readable on a computer and most mobile devices.

2) Shelfari.com

Described as a “social network for people who love books”, this site consists of a lot of people cataloguing the books they have on their shelves then indulging in some lively literary banter. For a similar proposition, check out LibraryThing.com .

3) RareBookRoom.org

You’ll probably never get your hands on a first-edition Shakespeare, but this is the next-best thing: 400 priceless literary treasures scanned in ultra high-resolution, now yours to peruse online.

4) FreeBookSpot.com

A goldmine of downloadable textbooks, saved as PDFs, meaning that unlike most electronic book formats, the diagrams and illustrations are preserved. Most take less than 60 seconds to download over broadband.

5) Authonomy.com

Launched last year by HarperCollins, the publisher, this site allows aspiring authors to upload their novels and have them read — and judged — by fellow members. It has already identified some up-and-coming talent, and the best offerings are now being printed.

6) Books.google.com

Also known as Google Book Search, this is a gateway to all manner of free book and magazine content, much of it downloadable. The search function is particularly strong, and is able to pull up specific text buried in any of the umpteen-million pages the company has scanned to date.

7) Blurb.com

Got a book in you? Use Blurb’s free software to lay it out, then upload it, and the site will make it into a real paperback, with prices starting at around a fiver.

8) BookCrossing.com

BookCrossing is the practice of leaving a book you’ve read for someone else to pick up by following your online directions. Nearly 800,000 people in 130 countries are involved.

9) LibriVox.org

This is the home of free, downloadable audiobooks — mainly classics and read by volunteers. It may be the only way you get to hear Dickens read in a Liverpool accent.

10) Goodreads.com

Described as “the world’s largest reading room”, the site is home to an active and well-informed community of bookworms.

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