Carnegie Libraries and Project Gutenberg Offer Free Ebooks (Sun., 4/5/20)

A 1722 book by Daniel Defoe is suddenly hot reading again, and it's one of many available free online. (portrait of Defoe: date and painter unknown, National Maritime Museum, London)

A 1722 book by Daniel Defoe is suddenly hot reading again, and it’s one of many available free online. (portrait of Defoe: date and painter unknown, National Maritime Museum, London)

With the usual entertainment options cut back, now is a good time for reading, and Pittsburghers have at least two ways to get free ebooks online. One is to search the master catalog of Pittsburgh-area public libraries for e-copies of the titles you want, then “borrow” them for temporary access on your computer or other device. All you need is a library card (also free online), but a couple of limitations apply. Within the vast holdings of the Carnegie Libraries and others in our area, many but not all books are available as ebooks. And the libraries can only buy lending rights to a finite number of e-copies, so there may be wait lists for popular books such as current best-sellers.    

Another free source is Project Gutenberg. This nonprofit has over 60,000 titles that anyone, anywhere can download for keeps in Kindle or Epub format, or simply read online. There’s no cost, no card, and no e-copy limits or waiting. All titles are in the public domain, which typically means they are older works, mostly dating from antiquity to the 1920s. But a lot of good writing was done in that span, and Project Gutenberg has a long list of popular classics plus a fascinating selection of others. For obvious reasons, a book that’s been high on the Gutenberg most-read list recently is Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. Since March is Women’s History Month, you may want to try novels by Jane Austen, Kate Chopin or Edith Wharton—or the memoirs of suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Julia Ward Howe, or the Narrative of Sojourner Truth. Both the Gutenberg and Pittsburgh library sites have much more as well. Stay healthy with good reading! (MV)