Ebooks are a method of accessing reading material that is quickly gaining popularity. They are electronic versions of the text of normal print books. They are most commonly read on a device called an e-reader, but some can also be accessed over a computer, or on a mobile phone.
Ebooks place restrictions on their readers that the original paper book forms do not. When an individual is finished with their reading material, a book owner can sell or donate their reading material, or lend it to a friend. Because of digital copyright restrictions, that individual ebook owner is the only person that has purchased access to the book. This all but eliminates any markets for used ebooks, with the exception of pirated materials.
For this reason, it is very difficult for reading enthusiasts to gain access to free ebooks in any way short of finding an abandoned and fully loaded e-reader. Luckily, they always have access to materials that are old enough to already be free of their copyrights. Old children’s stories, Shakespeare and classical seventeenth century literature are now open sourced, and electronic copies of their text have been available online for many years. They are available in formats that are readable over the internet, and some that, while not necessarily “ebooks” are available in PDF format and can be uploaded and read on e-readers.
Public libraries started providing free access to electronic books as early as 1998, though the access was only possible in-house and via the internet. Some years after that, public libraries began offering free downloads of some of the most popular ebooks. By 2010, a study of public library access found that nearly 70% of libraries supply ebooks to their patrons. In many venues, the library also still offers the reader the opportunity to purchase the ebook.
While the selection is still limited, due to the hesitance of many authors to open themselves up to easier royalty theft, but growing. Some authors cite the reason they haven’t converted their writing to ebooks is still a lack of demand, both for the format, as well as for the particular book itself.