Alternative eBook Sources for Your Kindle, Plus Bonus Book Review!

(image courtesy Motherinchief)

I mentioned in my post about Macmillan, Hachette and HarperCollins pushing new agency model pricing on Amazon that there are alternatives outside the Kindle store. Since these aren’t as easy as just “flip on your wireless and go”, I thought I would give a quick rundown on a few of these options, along with how you can have them on your Kindle (or ebook reader of your choice).


This is probably one of the most versatile ebook stores out there. Not only is it a source of free and very cheap new books, it also provides an independent source for authors to publish their books. As their website states:

What is Smashwords?
Smashwords publishes and distributes ebooks. Authors and publishers retain full control over how their works are published, sampled, priced and sold. If an author wants to charge one dollar or ten thousand dollars, or give it away for free, they have that freedom.

Who publishes on Smashwords?
Over 2,000 serious writers and 80 independent publishers publish and distribute with Smashwords. Many Smashwords authors have been previously published in print through mainstream publishers, or have had their works published in well-respected literary journals. Starting March 17, 2009, Smashwords began beta testing new publishing options for publishers who wanted to publish and centrally manage two or more authors. The Publisher solution went public and was announced in May.

What does Smashwords offer readers?
Smashwords is a virtual playground for those who love the written word. Readers can sample most works for free (and in many cases, read up to 50% of the book before they commit to a purchase decision); read in multiple DRM-free formats; create digital libraries of purchased and sampled works; publish reviews (including YouTube video book reviews); and “favorite” their favorite authors, publishers and works.

Smashwords offers books in multiple formats, including Kindle, ePUB, even HTML if you want to read via a webpage. In addition, by registering you can maintain a library, post reviews, even upload your own writing if you want!

This is mainly public domain works, with Project Gutenberg as a major source. The biggest difference is that Manybooks is cleaner to browse, and has a very handy dropdown to find your preferred format. All the books are 100% free, and they are offered in Kindle, eReader, and ePUB forms, so you are covered for just about any ebook reader you might want to use!


Similar to Smashwords, Feedbooks offers new books for free as a way to showcase the authors. In addition, they offer public domain books, all in a variety of formats. What’s really neat, and helpful if you only grab your news once a day, is that Feedbooks can also grab your RSS for you. They have several pre-created ones, including major news and tech sites. Just head to the website of your preferred feed (say, Engadget) and download it as an ePUB, Kindle, or PDF file. You don’t get pictures or links, but the gist is there.

Feedbooks maintains a blog and a facebook fan page, so you can always keep up on their latest uploads.

Project Gutenberg:

The granddaddy of eBook repositories, Project Gutenberg is a huge source of public domain works. Not everything is available in every format, though there’s a very good shot if you don’t find it in your preferred format that you’ll find it at Manybooks or Feedbooks. However, Project Gutenberg offers more than just ebooks-they also offer audiobooks!

And the next time you visit, check out the full explanation of their history. A bit of backstory:

Project Gutenberg began in 1971 when Michael Hart was given an operator’s account with $100,000,000 of computer time in it by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois.

This was totally serendipitous, as it turned out that two of a four operator crew happened to be the best friend of Michael’s and the best friend of his brother. Michael just happened “to be at the right place at the right time” at the time there was more computer time than people knew what to do with, and those operators were encouraged to do whatever they wanted with that fortune in “spare time” in the hopes they would learn more for their job proficiency.

At any rate, Michael decided there was nothing he could do, in the way of “normal computing,” that would repay the huge value of the computer time he had been given … so he had to create $100,000,000 worth of value in some other manner. An hour and 47 minutes later, he announced that the greatest value created by computers would not be computing, but would be the storage, retrieval, and searching of what was stored in our libraries.

He then proceeded to type in the “Declaration of Independence” and tried to send it to everyone on the networks … which can only be described today as a not so narrow miss at creating an early version of what was later called the “Internet Virus.”

A friendly dissuasion from this yielded the first posting of a document in electronic text, and Project Gutenberg was born as Michael stated that he had “earned” the $100,000,000 because a copy of the Declaration of Independence would eventually be an electronic fixture in the computer libraries of 100,000,000 of the computer users of the future.

Next steps:

So you’ve checked out these sites, and maybe you’ve got a whole folder going on your desktop. But how do you get them to your Kindle? You have two options; sideloading and whispernet. Sideloading means you need to grab your Kindle’s USB cable (or dig one up), and plug it into your computer. Navigate to your file explorer, find the Kindle’s “documents” folder and drop your book in. Disconnect from your computer and you are good to go! While the exact file paths might be different, the USB method should work for a nook as well.

If you can’t find your USB cable, and you don’t mind paying a few cents to Amazon, you can email the books to your Kindle via whispernet. Amazon helpfully has instructions if you are unsure how to email items to your Kindle.

Finally, there’s one more way to load outside books on your Kindle, but only if you are interested in public domain ones. Fire up your Kindle, turn on the wireless, and head into the web browser. Enter the website, and you have a Kindle-friendly site that lets you download Project Gutenberg .mobi files directly onto your device; no USB sideloading, no whispernet charges.

Bonus Book Review:

I’m hoping to incorporate quickie book reviews in on a semi-weekly basis. The goal here is to review books from Smashwords or Feedbooks, showcasing titles and authors that might not otherwise be noticed.

First up is “How to Disappear Completely” by David Bowick. Feedbooks says:

Sitting at the top of a Ferris wheel overlooking the Boston skyline, Josh’s life takes an unexpected turn, and things will never be the same. Along with the many surprises on his life’s new path, he’ll come to take life advice from a family of ducks, get in a bloody war with a dog, lose his job over a spilled drink, wake up in the hospital, apply to work at an adult-themed novelty bakery, and find out that people often aren’t what they seem. When you’re at the top of the world, there’s nowhere to go but down.

I downloaded this on a whim, figuring it sounded like a fun story. What I didn’t realize was that the whole story took place in Boston, MA, my old stomping grounds, which made it that much more interesting to read. Overall, the story moved quickly, and the characters all won me over. The author was excellent at giving each character a unique voice, and even minor characters felt very well developed. I finished the book and found myself wishing there were more, I became so attached to the story! You can download it from Feedbooks or buy it from Smashwords. Highly recommended!

Categories: eBooks, Editorials

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26 replies

  1. I also found out that Lifeway, the Christian Book Store giant has many different books downloadable in a PDF format that is DRM free. I purchased a PDF of the book we’re using in my small group. It works on the Kindle, but the rendering is ok, but for some stupid reason Amazon won’t let you zoom in on PDF files.

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