For all the e-book owners out there with shiny, new Sony readers or Amazon Kindles just out of the packing cases. Or iPhone Stanzas, Palm readers and plain old mini laptops, all hungry for epub fillings. You're dying to fill up those empty megabytes but are confused by the Macmillan v Amazon battle? I've set myself a little challenge suited to the financial crisis to help you get started.
I've given myself a fiver to spend and a target. I want to download 112 books for it. Easy, I hear you say. Just go to Project Gutenberg. Have you tried that?
It's an archive. It smells of dust and parchment. Half a million frayed books to wade through, with little weevils running out. That's what it feels like.
So, I hunted further with my fiver in hand.
I found Girlebooks. (not that kind of girliebooks, pervert.)
This one is run by Laura McDonald and her mum, Joyce. The website at www.girlebooks.com is a wonderful site. Laura and Joyce are dedicated to finding books written by women, mostly by plumbing the depths of Gutenberg and making them available as ebooks for free. But that's not all.
Cleverly, they find suitable paintings to convert as covers for them and they look great. They offer five or six formats for download (whatever Gutenberg offers). They are, of course, old favourite classics. Elizabeth von Arnim, Louisa May Alcott, Katherine Mansfield, etc. A great opportunity to add them to your e-reader and computer e-library. Just to dip into whenever the mood takes you. An antidote to a rainy afternoon. Or to introduce to your children when the time is right. They offer 89 of these classics.
You can salvage through Gutenberg yourself but I found it hard going. I added The Herries Chronicles by Hugh Walpole. That's Rogue Herries, Vanessa, Fortress and Judith Paris. You'll find Edgar Wallace on the same page.
That's 4 more. I added Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll for my kids and grandkids.
Next came Harlequin Books. Great offers here. It's their 60th birthday. To celebrate they are giving away 16 books to download absolutely free. How could I resist! All Detective or Romance with a big following. So, in they go.
Next, the turn of the Sci-fi brigade. Suvudu Books are offering 5 free downloads of their latest titles.
That's 110 books so far, and not a penny spent.
Then I came to ManyBooks.net run by Matthew McClintock. He has 24,461 free e-titles! It was time to stop.
In an effort to spend my fiver I went to Waterstones and downloaded The Third Pig Detective Agency for £1.
I searched on. An intriguing and, I hope legal site was cheapebookshop.com. I felt I might be slipping into one of those old naughty bookshops in Soho. Titles like Discover the 100+ Lovemaking Toys Already In Your House or An Amazing Guide to Finding A Thai Wife.
I made my excuses and turned to leave then found on offer Save Your Driving License, secrets of how to get off when the cops stop you. All about slipping out of speeding, radar guns, totting up points, etc. That seemed an investment at £2.
That's 112 ebooks for £3.
So, I have £2 left. I think I'll have a pint with that.