Are "Free E-Books" sites just portals for self-published drivel?

I got a small tablet not long ago to use as an e-reader. Along with downloading books from my local library, I signed up on a few freebie sites, hoping to get some classics that are no longer bound by copyrights. What I found were some really bad novels - bad writing, bad dialog, bad plots - just bad all around.

Did I just happen to make some unfortunate choices? Is there anything worth reading from such sites, or should I stick with the library?

The search engine probably just led you to some bad/fake sites. Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, and many other big and small sites all have plenty of real books.

Gutenberg has only out of copyright stuff, is filled with pirated stuff and they don’t care. (There is an especially huge library of pirated manga there.)

I have the FBReader app on my phone which has a link to something called “Feedbooks” with lots of old public domain books.

A lot of the free e-books out there are really bad, broken up by the ones that are really, REALLY horrible. There are some good ones scattered in, but they are hard to find, given the volume you have to sift through.

Some tips on what to look for to find decent books: covers that look professionally drawn, rather than created by the author in MS Draw; more than 250-300 reviews, as there are services that will create a few hundred reviews for you and 250-300 seems to be about their threshold; reviews that start, “I have read all 30 of this (author no one has ever heard of) books”, self-dubbed authors who write a lot of books, very fast, tend not to be very good; download a sample of the book if possible, and if it’s full of editing errors avoid it.

For old classics, Project Gutenberg is great.

Lots of them are piracy sites.

For cheap-but-not-free (as a rule) books, I signed up for Bookbub. I indicate my preferences (true crime, mystery/thriller, history, cooking) and a dollar limit ($2.99) and they send me a list every day of books that range from free to $2.99. Sometimes, they’ll put the first two books of a popular series out for cheap to lure readers in. Yesterday, I got a note that Carl Hiaasan’s Double Whammy was available for $1.99.

For very cheap editions of out-of-copyright classics - BUT well-formatted, well-edited, with good images, tables of contents, extra material, and usually containing a whole COLLECTION of books by a particular author, try Delphi Classics.

Most of their collections cost about $2.99 in either Kindle or ePub format. They also have several free downloads, so that you can get an idea of the quality - which is highly professional.

I’ve bought a few and been very happy with them. You could get some of the works on Gutenberg, but not with the same quality and convenience.

Seconded. Not remotely up-to-date translations for non-English material, but reliable value otherwise. (Though I have to wonder who’s reading the “Life Of” old biographies that invariably pad them out.)

I read classic novels from Project Gutenberg almost exclusively and I’m very happy with it. For suggestions of book titles, I look at lists like The Guardian’s “1000 novels everyone must read” or The Modern Library’s “100 best novels” and pick out the ones written before 1923. There are tons of similar lists (which significant overlap, of course).

Another vote for Gutenberg. Books lose their copyright after a certain amount of years…let’s call it a 100. There’s a lot of good, classic books that you can get for free that are well out of copyright. And, I’m not talking about some obscure book no one’s heard of. Books like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (really good), Dracula, Tale of Two Cities etc.

Check out their cite for loads of free books. If you’re using a Kindle, I think you can ‘buy’ a few of them right from Amazon. The rest will have to be sideloaded (very easy).

You left out one other thing. There should be no Papyrus or Comic Sans typeface anywhere in the book; the latter may be acceptable if it’s a children’s book.

Yes, Project Gutenberg is your primary source for “classics that are no longer bound by copyrights.” There’s also, which has many of the same books (and a few more modern ones) in what you might or might not think is a more user-friendly site.

Love the free book sites such as Guttenberg and who are legal. I detest the piracy sites as most of my books have been pirated. Years of work and these sites, for reasons I cannot fathom, steal from my meagre profits. Some of them are phishing sites, but I just don’t understand the motivation of the others.

I second BookBub. You can get some good, free books from them. Some of them are self-published, but nowadays “self-published” does not automatically equal “bad,” and BookBub curates their list (I am a self-published author myself, and it’s really hard to get a BookBub deal) so while you might get something you don’t like, it will almost certainly be professionally presented, with a good cover and quality content.