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Various websites offer free downloadable books

| Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

As we all begin the new year, my wish is that 2013 brings each of you a lot of choices for adventures and opportunities to prioritize life by taking more time to spend with friends and loved ones and yourself relaxing and curling up with a good book. If you were really good last year, you can hopefully curl up with your new eReader device that Santa brought you as a new holiday treat. But, maybe you are one of the millions using smartphones or tablets to access just about everything online. In my humble librarian opinion, one of the greatest uses for such devices is free downloadable books.

While there are many other free e-book sites, not all of them give free access like, offer ebooks only for sale. So, I thought I'd highlight some of the biggest and best sites for finding free ebooks — which won't put an extra squeeze on your already expended holiday budget.

Project Gutenberg ( was the first provider of free full-text ebooks. It offers access to more than 36,000 titles diligently proofread by volunteers to limit typos/errors. Project Gutenberg offers a simple book search feature to search by title, author or subject. No fee or registration is required, and ebooks can be downloaded to your PC, eReader, tablet, most smartphones, and even some MP3 players and gaming systems. Easy-to-follow instructions are available to help you figure it all out.

The goal of Open Library (, an initiative of the Internet Archive, is stated simply: one web page for every book ever published. Open Library offers direct access to more than one million free ebooks in a variety of formats. A simple search box is offered at the top of each page on the Open Library site. Right below that, you will find a small check box to limit your search to only ebooks. You also can browse on the Accessible Books page to see what is available for free. Open Library even has its own Lending Library with over 10,000 ebook titles available to borrow one copy at a time for two weeks.

HathiTrust Digital Library ( is one of the less well-known ebook sources, but it's particularly valuable for research. The digital library is a partnership of more than 60 major research institutions and libraries worldwide, and brings together their collections to be preserved in digital form for posterity. HathiTrust has digitized nearly 10 million volumes for the sole purpose of preservation thus only about a quarter of them are available free online — a total of close to three million volumes, mostly ones in the public domain. Also, these items are offered only in PDF format, which is a less eReader-friendly format than some of those available at the other ebook sites mentioned in this post. The ultimate goal for Google Books ( is to scan all the books in the world, allowing people to easily search for and find the books they need. Whenever possible, Google Books does provide free access, mainly for books that are in the public domain because the copyright has expired, or those where the copyright holder has given permission for free access. Most of these scanned books give access to only part of the text, along with links to find libraries that hold physical copies of the book or sources that sell copies. Google Books also offers both iPhone/iPad and Android apps that sync automatically with your own account on the site, as well as different formats for use with eReaders, making it even easier to take ebooks with you.

Of course, you can borrow hundreds of ebooks and audiobooks for free with your library card from our website homepage. Sign up for a free private tutorial on how to use your eReader with OverDrive. Call 724-628-1380 to schedule your appointment. Don't forget about our other scheduled programs for January.

Bedtime Stories is held every Monday night from 6 to 7 p.m. Scrapbooking club began Saturday and is being held noon to 3 p.m. Call 724-323-4567 or email at

Penn State Cooperative Extension, Cooking for Crowds, will be held Jan. 28 and 30 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. for the low cost of $11 per person. Pre-registration is required by Jan. 23 and registration forms can be found at the library. For any further questions, please call Dori Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, nutrition, health and food safety extension educator, at 724-837-1402.

A sneak peak into February brings a new monthly series for parents and family members dealing with autism. Autism Speaks will sponsor this support group and lead discussion of successes and challenges during this meet and greet on Feb. 6 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Carnegie Free Library in Connellsville.

Come for the opportunity to meet new people, learn about local resources, and enjoy pizza and refreshments. For more information please contact Kristan Miller at 724-562-5302.

Ring in the new year with relaxation in mind by using the wonderful free resources at the many different public libraries' across Fayette County. Or consider spending some of your extra time helping save our free libraries in Fayette County by volunteering or donating your time and resources. Like us on Facebook, check out our websites and utilize our free or low cost services and programs.

Casey Sirochman is the director/head librarian at Carnegie Free Library, 299 S. Pittsburgh St., Connellsville. She can be reached at 724-628-1380.

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