Best for: Anything in the public domain
Project Gutenberg was the first provider of free electronic books. That’s right—they were around before we coined the term “e-Book.” The project’s founder, Michael Hart, invented eBooks in 1971—way before the thought of Kindle or Nook was conceived. The website offers thousands of royalty-free, DRM-free literature to read on nearly any device for no money whatsoever. Since eBooks have gained steam, the Project Gutenberg catalogue has been outstripped; however, readers can continue to download any of their 56,000 books from anywhere and at any time.
Project Gutenberg’s mission statement is simple: “To encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks.” Founded in 1971, it is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works within the public domain. The project’s first eBook was a digitization of the United States Declaration of Independence, and the initial goal was to make the 10,000 most-consulted books available to the public at little or no charge by the end of the 20th century. The project completed its goal–and passed with flying colors.
Project Gutenberg’s current collection is composed primarily of western literature, including novels, poetry, short stories, and drama. They also offer cookbooks, reference works, and issues of periodicals. Love Project Gutenberg but can’t find what you’re looking for? The project is closely partnered and affiliated with several additional services, bringing another 100,000 books to your eReader for little or no cost. PG also adds over 50 new eBooks to its catalogue each week.