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e-Books: A Buyers Guide

An alternative to a printed version of a book, e-books have become incredibly popular in the UK with sales up 20% in 2013. But as e-books come in different formats and on a number of different devices it can be hard to decide which way is best. In this guide we talk you through the options available and let you know how to get e-books for free.

What is an e-book?

e-book means electronic book and they are exactly the same as a normal book, but they can be read on your PC and are usually sent to you via email saving on printing and postage costs. Other benefits of e-books include:

Price – e-books cost much less than regular books and, as we’ll discuss further down, you can find plenty of e-books for free online.

They are easy to search – with a traditional book it can be hard to find particular passages or phrases you want to quickly reference even if the book has an index, but with an e-book you can quickly search for any word or phrase anywhere in the book.

Convenience – e-books take up less space as you can store thousands of books on a single device. This means they are also portable and you can carry your entire collection of books around with you and access them at any time.

Additional Features – e-books can be interactive and contain audio, video and animation.

Environmentally Friendly – As they save on paper, e-books are much better for the environment than traditional books.


There are plenty of different formats available, but here are a few of the most popular ones:

PDF – Adobe’s portable document format is the most popular format for e-books as it simulates the appearance of the printed page.

LIT – Microsoft’s LIT format is used by Microsoft Reader, available for anyone with Windows PCs and mobile devices.

MOBI – Runs on Windows PCs and most types of smartphone and PDA (Personal Digital Assistant)

Plain Text – Standard file type that can be used by just about every device.

Ways to read e-books

As there are a number of different devices and formats there are different ways you can read e-books, they include:

Computer screen – While this is probably the least popular way to read an e-book, it can be good for short passages and quickly referencing a particular piece of text.

Smartphone/iPhone/PDA – Most PDAs and smartphones come with some form of ready installed e-book reader. If not then you can easily download a programme that is compatible with your devices operating system.

Dedicated devices – There are several devices available at varying ends of the price scale. You can either opt for a top of the line Kindle or Sony e-reader or you can choose a more basic Kindle or devices such as a Nook or Kobo Mini.

When choosing which device you want it’s a case of comparing them to see the balance each offers in terms of functionality and price. Reading customer reviews will give you great insight into which devices are worth investing in.

Free e-books

There are plenty of places to find free e-books, although you will be limited in what’s available. Free e-books are usually older books whose copyright has expired. Some of the places you can find free e-books include:

Open Library – Lets you read, search and share books with others. There are more than a million texts for you to download for free. Open Library specialises in classic literature and allows you to search books by keywords, author and subject.

Project Gutenberg – Offering over 100,000 free e-books; project Gutenberg has a huge database of out of copyright texts allowing you to download works by Mark Twain, Jane Austen and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Baen Books – If you’re a fan of sci-fi/fantasy books then Baen Books offers you plenty of free titles to choose from.

Adobe.com – Has a huge selection of free e-books as well as free sample chapters available in PDF format.

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