Project Gutenberg (PG) is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to “encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks”. It was founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart and is the oldest digital library. Most of the items in its collection are the full texts of public domain books. The project tries to make these as free as possible, in long-lasting, open formats that can be used on almost any computer. As of March 2013, Project Gutenberg claimed over 42,000 items in its collection.
Wherever possible, the releases are available in plain text, but other formats are included, such as HTML, PDF, EPUB, MOBI, and Plucker. Most releases are in the English language, but many non-English works are also available. There are multiple affiliated projects that are providing additional content, including regional and language-specific works. Project Gutenberg is also closely affiliated with Distributed Proofreaders, an Internet-based community for proofreading scanned texts. (Wikipedia)
Popular books on the Project Gutenberg website include Pride and Prejudice, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wuthering Heights, Dracula, Peter Pan, and A Tale of Two Cities, as well as other, less well-known works. The top 100 ebooks on Project Gutenberg can be viewed here. Fun fact: Michael S. Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented the ebook in 1971.
Goodreads (owned by Amazon) is the #1 most popular book-centric social networking site. In their downloadable ebook section, one can find public domain books as well as books and book excerpts that authors have made available for download.
Reddit has several subreddits devoted to free (legal!) ebooks. For anyone unfamiliar with Reddit, you do not need to have an account to view this sub or to download any of the books. Some links go to Amazon, while others go to Smashwords, author’s websites, etcetera; no books are hosted at the subreddit itself, and illegal books are not permitted.
The Nosleep Podcast is an award-winning anthology series of original horror stories, with rich atmospheric music to enhance the frightening tales.
The NoSleep Podcast is the podcast that accompanies the /r/nosleep subreddit (see “Amateur Fiction” below). Only the first two “seasons” of this podcast are free. After the final episode of “Season 2”, the podcast was split into a free and premium version. The free version can be found through the link above, while the premium version can be purchased at the podcast’s website.
Disclaimer: I do not pay for the “premium” version, nor could I afford to do so if I wanted to. Frankly, I disagree with the podcaster’s decision to put the majority of what used to be a completely free podcast behind a paywall. But more importantly, the podcaster makes repeated and thinly-veiled attempts to shame listeners into financially “supporting” the podcast that I find utterly reprehensible and very insulting, as the language he uses is incredibly demeaning to those of us whose lack of wealth restricts us to free entertainment.
CHSS, as the site refers to itself, is a website that hosts short horror stories in the public domain. Authors whose stories are hosted on the site include Ambrose Bierce, Charles Dickens, Nathaniel Hawthorne, M.R. James, H.P. Lovecraft and more.
FanFiction.net‘s sister site, FictionPress.com, contains over 1 million original stories, poems, and plays. The site has a similar format and rules to FanFiction.net, except that no fan fiction is allowed. Currently, there are more poems than stories. (Wikipedia)
FictionPress is a site for hobbyist, amateur, and future professional writers to post their original fiction (as opposed to FF.net, which is for fanfiction).
/r/nosleep is a subreddit devoted to horror fiction. While some claims to be fact and most is obviously fictional, the primary gimmick of the sub is that all stories are to be treated as “true”; discussion of /r/nosleep’s authors and stories that acknowledges what is and is not fiction can be found at /r/NoSleepOOC (aka, NoSleep Out of Character). Be sure to read the NoSleep FAQ.
Though many of the authors who write at NoSleep are “professionals”, having published or self-published novels or short fiction outside of the sub, many of the authors are amateurs who dabble in the craft of writing for fun and in an effort to entertain. As such, I’m including NoSleep under the “Amatuer Fiction” heading; my apologies if you strongly disagree.
Trigger warnings are included on the more extreme stories, though they can be turned off if you find they’re spoiling twist endings for you–provided you aren’t using Reddit Enhancement Suite, unfortunately. Examples of these trigger warnings include “sexual violence”, “graphic violence”, etcetera. The subreddit contains no frightening or startling images that I have found, so there’s nothing to fear on that front.
NoSleep has monthly writing contests, and the archive of winners can be found here; it should be a good way to sample the sub, if you’re not sold on it. Alternately, NoSleep also has a podcast available; the link can be found in the “Free Audiobooks and Fiction Podcasts” section above.
First Reads is Goodreads’ giveaway section, a place for authors and publishers to raffle off copies of their books to readers. All books in this section are physical copies, and so one must list a shipping address in order to participate. As such, anyone interested in participating in the First Reads program will want to be aware of the potential risks; there have been issues in the past with authors attempting to use the First Read programs to get access to the addresses of their critics.
BookLikes is a competitor to Goodreads that has been growing in popularity thanks to Goodreads’ controversial policy decisions (and its acquisition by Amazon) during 2013. It has its own giveaway section that has two huge advantages over the First Reads program:
- eBooks are offered, so anyone uncomfortable with providing authors/publishers with their shipping address can still participate (to a certain extent).
- As BookLikes is a far less populous site than Goodreads, one has a much higher chance of winning a BookLikes giveaway than a Goodreads giveaway.
FanFiction.Net (often abbreviated as FF.net or FFN) is an automated fan fiction archive site. It was founded in 1998 by Los Angeles computer programmer Xing Li, who also runs the site. As of 2010, FanFiction.Net is the largest and most popular fan fiction website in the world. It has nearly 2.2 million registered users and hosts stories in over 30 languages. (Wikipedia)
If you want to get started reading or writing fanfiction, this is the place to start. A lot of what you’ll find here is absolute crap, but there are some gems here and there. The most popular categories are Harry Potter (683k stories), Naruto (361k stories), Twilight (216k stories), Inuyasha (112k stories), Glee (105k stories), Hetalia: Axis Powers (103k stories), Supernatural (95.6k stories), Bleach (77.7k), Pokémon (72k stories), and Kingdom Hearts (71.2k stories).
Fanfiction.net uses this rating system. While they claim to ban content rated MA (Adult/Explicit/18+), it’s not a particularly well-enforced rule.
We’re a fan-created, fan-run, non-profit, non-commercial archive for transformative fanworks, like fanfiction, fanart, fan videos, and podfic. We currently have 15273 fandoms, 328080 registered users, and 1138056 works.
While the site is in beta, you can get an invitation from another user or from our automated invite queue. All fans and fanworks are welcome!
The Archive of Our Own is a project of the Organization for Transformative Works.
Archive of Our Own, also known as AO3, is a fanfiction archive alternative to fanfiction.net. It’s technically still in beta, so you’ll need to join the waiting list or receive an invitation to join, but you can browse the site without having an account if you don’t want one or are currently waiting for one. The various fandoms present on the site can be browsed here. There’s also original fiction on AO3, which can be found here.
Ratings found at AO3 include General, Teen+, Mature, Explicit, and Unrated. Warnings include Graphic Depictions of Violence, Major Character Death, Rape/Non-Con, Underage, and No Warnings Apply; there is also the option for authors to neglect warnings, represented by the label “Chose Not to Use Archive Warnings”.
University of California Press eBook Collection
This is a catalogue of books published by the University of California Press. There are currently 770 books available to the general Internet; these can be browsed here. (To have access to the entire collection, one must be a UC staff/faculty member or a student.)
University of Chicago Press
The University of Chicago Press offers a free ebook every month, which can be downloaded here. An email address is required to “request” a copy (as far as I can tell, there is no approval process–it’s simply an extra click), and the download link for the book is sent to the address you supply. There are several different download options; the default is via Adobe Digital Editions.
This is a trove of at least two hundred art books from the Getty Museum.