Tips for Finding Free Classic Literature for Owners of Tablets, Smartphones

By Rob Klindt

Robert Louis Stevenson, meet Kindle, Nook and iPad Mini.

Thanks to this trio of popular electronic devices (and others like them), Stevenson’s most famous novel, “Treasure Island,” written more than a century ago, has adapted very nicely to the digital age.

The classic tale of swashbuckling, treasure-hunting pirates on the high seas is enchanting young readers in ways never imagined by Stevenson or other novelists of his time.

Digitized works of literature, from great novels and short stories, to poems and even plays are sweeping through classrooms nationwide and shaking up how students read and react to them.

And the best deal? Many are absolutely free.

Because copyrights on many classic works have expired, they are in the public domain and can be freely distributed or used by anyone. As a result, many companies have stepped up and made these works available in a digital e-book format that can be downloaded over the Internet onto a computer, tablet or e-reader.

Thousands of titles and easy downloads

While many big booksellers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble offer a selection of free classic literature downloads, they’re not the only games in town. Dozens of other companies and non-profit agencies also offer a dizzying array of free e-book downloads.

One of the oldest e-book distributors is Project Gutenberg, a volunteer-run organization founded in 1971 that is dedicated to making e-books freely available. The project has an estimated 42,000 titles.

All the companies offer a searchable database of titles and instructions on how to download them to various devices. Depending on the size of the e-book and speed of the Internet connection, many e-books can be downloaded in a minute or less.

Among the classics available as free e-books:

  • “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
  • “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville
  • “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens
  • “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo
  • “Call of the Wild” by Jack London
  • Poems by Edgar Allen Poe and plays by William Shakespeare

Where to Find Free Downloads of Classic Literature

Here is a roundup of some of the most popular sources for downloading free classic literature e-books:

  • Project Gutenberg
    Project Gutenberg’s 42,000 items are available in open formats that can be used on most computers, e-book readers and smart phones.
  • Overdrive
    In partnership with a network of 18,000 public libraries in the United States, Overdrive lets people use their library cards to borrow thousands of e-books for most tablets and selected mobile devices.
  • Free Kindle Books
    Free Kindle Books offers thousands of classic literature e-books for Kindle and Nook.  Apps are available for users with other devices including iPad, Chromebook and various smartphones. Books are offered under the same terms used by Project Gutenberg.
  • Bookyards
    Billing itself as “The Library to the World,” Bookyards provides access to than 800,000 free titles. If a work by a specific author isn’t available on its site, Bookyards offers links to sites that have it.
  • Barnes & Noble
    The bookseller offers more than 100,000 free e-books for users of its proprietary Nook reader. It also has an e-reader app for the iPad and selected other devices.
  • Sony eBook Store
    Sony has a vast selection of free e-books for owners of its Reader.
    This site has more than 29,000 e-books for Kindle, Nook, iPad and most other e-readers.

Share your experiences

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