The world of ebooks can be tricky to navigate whether you're new to reading ebooks or an ebook-reading veteran. While most people are no longer worried that ebooks will make paper books obsolete and are instead realizing that ebooks are great compliments to their hardback or softcover paper counterparts, some people are still struggling with how to make the most of their ebook experience. They wonder where to find the best place to download ebooks, about the best ways to organize their ebook library, and how to get the best ebook deals. They're learning that some authors aren't publishing paper versions anymore and that many ebooks go on sale for free or heavily discounted at one point or another. They hear about sites where you can get any books for free, but they aren't sure if those sites are legal or not.
If this sounds like you, and you've asked yourself many ebook related questions, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about ebooks.
To get you started, here are some of our most popular ebooks articles:
- The Stages Every Book Lover Goes through (or Went through) to Accepting Ebooks
- Revamping Your Ebook Library
- Tips to Organizing Your Ebook Library
- Prioritizing Your TBR List or Pile
- How to Find a Book When You Don’t Know the Title or Author
- 19 Ways to Beat Your Reading Slump
- 23 Benefits of Reading That Will Make You Want to Go Read Right Now
- 26 Excuses for Staying Home and Reading
- 7 Solutions for Protecting Your Ereaders and Ebooks from Water Damage
- What Is Ebook DRM and How Does It Affect You
The Different Types and Ways to Download Ebooks
Did you know that there are several different types of ebooks and ways to download them? You can read ebooks online, download them through your favorite retailers, or download the book files directly to your device. Ebooks can come in a variety of different file types as well. For example, you may encounter EPUB, MOBI, PDFs, AZW, and sometimes even word documents. Depending on the type of ebook file, you may need to know how to sideload them onto your device or use different apps to read them. These different file types and retailers can also make it hard to create a central ebook library. Below we’ll cover the different types of ebooks, show when each type is most useful, talk about how to use and download each type, and detail tips and tricks needed to make the most out of each type.
The Benefits of Online Ebooks
Online ebooks are those ebooks that you read online in your browser. You never download them directly onto your device but instead scroll down the page as you do with a typical web page as you work your way through the chapter. Sometime each chapter is on its own web page or blog post. Other times, there will be arrows leading you to the next page. The benefits to reading this way are many:
- It’s a great way to check out a book before you commit to buying it and storing it on your device.
- You don’t have to worry about downloading anything hidden or extra onto your device, which is usually only a concern if the site you’re downloading from is illegal and sketchy like the many torrent sites.
- They ebooks are often free or require a small donation or email signup in order to access them. Typically, the free books offered this way from authors are their older books that require an email signup to access the book content.
- Many classic novels, public domain novels, and romances can be read this way.
- They are easily shareable. Just share the link with your friends and family and they can read along with you.
- Some authors will share previews of books, sample chapters, bonus content, and short novellas this way.
The Disadvantages of Online Ebooks
However, there are many disadvantages to online ebooks as well. They include the following:
- Losing access to them if your internet or power goes out.
- You may have to deal with lots of ads. Some sites are able to offer books online for free because of the money they make selling ad services. It can be really disruptive to read when pop-up ads keep appearing and/or you have to keep scrolling past spammy ads.
- You don’t get to keep the books. If you like the book and want to store it for later, you can’t. You’ll have to make a note of it and hope it’s still available online the next time you want to read it. Or you can purchase a copy once you’re finished reading.
- It’s not a great way to read while traveling. Whether you’re going out of the country, camping, or even just taking the subway into work everyday, traveling while reading online can cause many problems as you encounter dead zones and faulty coverage.
- There's a very limited number of books you can read this way. In order to fully read a book online, someone must obtain permission and have the ability to post the entire book online. Since most authors won’t allow this or only allow it for a limited time during a special promotion, the selection of online books you’re able to read will be limited and will mostly consist of public domain novels and classics.
- Sometimes you'll encounter a book online only to discover it has disappeared later. This usually means that someone published the book without permission or maybe the author decided not to provide it for free anymore.
Overall summary: Online ebooks can be a great way to read classics, public domain books, sneak peaks of novels, and exclusive book deals from your favorite authors, but they aren’t a good alternative to reading all the time as you’ll be limited by your service provider and the variety of books you can read. For the majority of our ebook reading, we prefer downloading ebooks from your favorite retailers or directly downloading ebooks from authors and publishers.
The Advantages of Retailer Ebooks
Ebook retailers are online ebook stores like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, publishers—anyplace where you can purchase a book and then read it, often through an associated app or device. Since many retailers are in competition with each other, most try to make it difficult for you to read their books on other devices or apps. This can be very frustrating to readers who feel as though they need to have multiple devices and apps to access every book they want, or that they're missing out on deals from other retailers when they're only using one app.
Below we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of retailer ebooks.
- It’s super easy. You click “buy” and the book is sent to your device or app, ready to download and read.
- Access to a huge variety of ebooks. Between the various retailers, you’ll be able to find almost every book in the world.
- You can use gift cards or retailer credits to purchase ebooks. It seems like we always end up with random gift cards lying around, and often in smaller amounts. Purchasing ebooks is a great way to finish them off. It’s also a good way to use the retailer credits you may get from stores like Amazon when they mess up an order or you agree to delay shipping.
- There are a lot of sales and free ebooks. Retailers are known for having sales and deals. Ebooks are no exceptions. Keep an eye out, and you’ll see some great, heavily discounted deals and often even free ebooks that are on sale for a limited time. Or, you can sign up for our Book Cave retailer deals services, and we’ll let you know when a book you might be interested in goes on sale for at least 50% off—or often free!
- They don’t take up a lot of storage space on your device. Because these retailer apps often only have a few of your books actually downloaded into the app at a time, and the full books are kept on their servers, you can have a huge ebook library without worrying about running out of space on your devices.
- Saves money and shelf space. No longer will you have to sacrifice more and more of your house to book shelves and piles. And not only will you save money on bookshelves, but you’ll also save money on the books too because many ebooks are cheaper than their hard book counterparts.
The Disadvantages of Retailer Ebooks
- You’re not able to combine your different retailer ebooks into one central library. If you find that you usually buy Kindle ebooks but then see a NOOK ebook on sale at Barnes and Noble, you’ll need two apps to read the two different book files. This is annoying because it
- takes up extra space on your device. Now you have to have multiple apps for reading books, and the competing books sites don’t always make it easy to read from the other retailers on their devices.
- can get confusing as you may later forget one ebook was a NOOK book, and not realize why you can’t find it in your Kindle ebook app.
- can cause you to buy duplicate ebooks when you forget that one was already purchased from another retailer.
- is annoying when you have to browse through multiple books apps to find what book you want to read next.
- can cause you to limit yourself to one main retailer, which causes you to miss out on exclusive books, authors, and book sales from the other retailers.
- It can be difficult to get the hard files of your books. Depending on the retailer, if you decide you want to stop using the retailer or their app, you either aren’t able to or it’s very difficult to get the hard digital file of the books you’ve purchased to move to another device. If you decided to move away from your Kindle app right now, would you know how to get the hard files of your ebooks? Most people don’t. And even if you do, you then must know how to download, convert, sideload, and/or read the Amazon-specific file type on your device, then store the book files somewhere. It can definitely be a pain.
- If you do go through the efforts to create one big, central ebook library, you might be breaking copyright or licensing agreements. While some readers have taken the time to download all their ebooks from the different retailers, change the file types into one main type, and create a central library, it’s difficult, time consuming, and often breaks the agreement and copyright you agreed to when downloading.
- If a retailer closes down, you could lose access to the books you purchased through them. This isn’t usually a concern with the bigger retailers like Amazon, but if you go through smaller publishing sites or independent sellers, this may be a concern for you.
- Retailers could revoke access to your books. Although not common, there have been cases of sites like Amazon blocking users from their Kindle library for supposedly violating their terms and conditions. Warranted or not, many readers are surprised to find that this is something Amazon has the right to do, and fighting with Amazon to get your books back in the case of a mistake is very frustrating.
Tip: Buying isn't the same as downloading. One of the major reasons I personally got into ebooks was to have them on hand for traveling, so I was very disappointed as a new ebook reader, ready to settle into an ebook on an eight hour flight, only to realize I couldn't actually read any of the books I thought I'd have access to because I'd only purchased them from the Kindle store and hadn't downloaded them into the actual app. While it’s usually not a big deal to browse through your purchased book list in the app, find a book, click download, and wait a few seconds for it to be ready to read, if you’re somewhere without access to Internet or data, you won’t be able to get the book you were planning to read on your device. Just because you’ve purchased the ebook, doesn’t mean the book is ready to be read on your device. You need to make sure it’s actually available on your device ahead of time and not still floating around in the cloud.
Overall, retailer deals are probably the most popular way to read ebooks, and you can score many great deals through retailers if you know where to look. Many sites, like Book Cave, do the heavy lifting for you and keep you alerted on all the great free and discounted ebook deals. Using our unique algorithm, we only send you the books whose movie-like rating and genre matches the kinds of books you like to read. We also vet each book for overall quality, so you won't waste time with a poorly written book. No other site does all this!
Here are other resources about downloading ebooks through retailers:
- Tips and Tricks for Downloading eBooks Across Multiple Vendors
- Tips to Navigate Amazon’s Free Ebook Selection (Amazon Ebooks)
- Free Kindle Ebooks You'll Actually Love
- What is a NOOK Book and where Can I Download Free Ebooks for It?
- How to Get Free iBooks for iPhone
- 36 Free Classic Books for Your Kindle Library
- How to Download eBooks onto Your Kindle
- How to Download eBooks onto Your NOOK
- How to Download eBooks onto Your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch
- How to Download eBooks onto an Android Device
- How to Download eBooks onto a Mac
- How to Download eBooks onto a PC
The Benefits of Directly Downloading Ebooks
Direct ebook downloads are when you purchase the ebook directly from an author or site and get the actual book file. You then must decide how to store and read the ebook on your own. Since text files don’t usually take up a lot of space, storing these files is pretty easy. However, depending on the file type, opening these files can be a little bit trickier. Luckily, there are several different apps and methods to help make reading these books easy for you. Below are the benefits of directly downloading ebooks:
- Great way to support your favorite authors. If an author is selling their ebooks directly on their own site and you purchase it from there, they make 100% of the sale. Publishers also will often sell direct copies of their ebooks.
- Gain access to exclusive content. Some authors use direct downloads as a way to provide extra content to their fans, such as prequels, short novellas, companion pieces, or even extended previews.
- You own the actual ebook file. When you purchase a direct download, you get the whole file. That means you can move and store the file at your own will.
- Group direct download deals. Authors who write similar content or genres will often get together to create direct download deals and giveaways. These groups are often themed (i.e. holiday, romance, young adult, summer reads, etc.) You’ll often have to sign up for their newsletters to get these books, but it can be a great way to find authors who are similar to those you already read. Bonus! They often do fun giveaways and prizes with their deals. Check out some here.
- You can create one central library. If you make an effort to get direct ebook downloads as often as you can, you’ll be able to create a central ebook library, instead of having them separated in different apps.
The Disadvantages of Directly Downloading Ebooks
- You could lose the ebooks if you damage or lose the device they were stored on. If you lose the file, you’ll most likely have to purchase or re-download the ebook again as long as it’s still available. We always recommend having backups and/or cloud storage for your directly downloaded ebooks.
- You may have to give out your email. Some readers don’t like giving out their emails for free direct download books.
- Sideloading ebooks can be difficult to do. Depending on the device and book file, you may have an easier or harder time downloading the ebooks.
- Not every author or publisher offers their ebooks directly, so you may not be able to find every book you want this way.
- Many people take advantage of direct downloads to pirate the files for other readers, which is making some authors hesitant to offer them and is hurting the overall publishing industry.
Overall: While you won't be able to get all your ebooks as direct downloads, it is definitely something worth learning how to do. It is usually the most personal way to connect with your favorite authors, and you'll be able to access exclusive content that isn't offered any other way. Book Cave helps many authors host their direct download ebooks through our Book Cave Direct pages. Check it out and see what you've been missing.
Here are more resources on directly downloading and sideloading ebooks on a variety of devices are:
- How Do I Direct Download an Ebook onto my Kindle Device?
- How Do I Download My Direct Download Ebook to my Kindle App?
- My Kindle is Having Problems with My Direct Download. What Do I Do?
Why Are So Many Ebooks Free?
When I first got my ereader, I was surprised to see so many free ebooks in the app store. Previously, I’d only read pint books (which you always have to pay for even if you only shop bargain sales), so seeing so many free options was new and very exciting to me. I went deep down the rabbit hole, and many, many hours later had downloaded every free ebook I could find. And I was still hungry for more. Soon, I’d downloaded hundreds of free ebooks and completely overwhelmed myself.
Which ebooks did I actually want to read next? When it came down to actually reading the books, I found I wasn’t very excited about reading many of them and had to work my way through a lot of ebook clutter. Where did the ebook I remember actually wanting to read go? With hundreds of ebooks downloaded to my device all at once, it was nearly impossible to navigate my ebook library. Did I accidentally download an ebook before it had finished the publishing process? I quickly learned that many ebooks are independently published, and that sometimes this means they’ve taken shortcuts on things like hiring editors, which usually means I struggle to make it through the book and end up wasting my time. Not every free ebook is high quality.
So, after several years, I’ve discovered how to take advantage of free ebooks in a way that helps me score great books while being able to skip the less than great ones. In order to do that, you must understand why some ebooks are free. The first type of free ebooks you'll run in to are the classics and public domain novels. Since these books essentially don't belong to anyone anymore, they have been formatted into free versions. Secondly, many ebooks that you'll see for free are a part of an author's or publisher's promotion. They hope that by giving the ebooks away, they'll attract new readers who will fall in love with their books and go on to buy some of their other books. Often you'll see first books of series for free, older works, or short novellas and prequels. The third type of ebooks that you'll also see a lot of, that aren't often as exciting, are ebooks created and sold for free for the sole purpose of marketing something. Think, for example, something like "100 Marketing Tips" written by someone who wants to sell you marketing books or courses, or free cookbooks written by someone who wants you to buy their fitness supplements or services. Now that you know the three basic kinds of ebooks, you can keep an eye out for them.
Learn more tips and tricks below.
Tips and Tricks to Building an Ebook Library for Free
- Take advantage of services that help you find daily free and discounted ebook deals. Most of the really great free ebook deals are only offered for a limited time. Which means that if you're not taking the time to check the retailers each day, you're probably missing out on some great deals. I don't know about you, but between my mom brain and trying to keep all my kids and pets alive, I don't have time or brainpower to browse the app store every day. When I do get a few seconds to myself, I'd like to already have a book in hand so I can get some reading in. That's why services like Book Cave are so great. Book Cave works with authors to help notify readers of their ebook deals and promotions. Book Cave also vets each book for quality and content before sending it to you. Essentially, they do all the work, and all you have to do is browse through your daily email and download the free ebooks you like. It doesn't get easier than that! You can sign up for this service here.
- Organize your free books as soon as you get them. For me, it's harder to remember which books are in my TBR pile when they're not staring at me from my bookshelves. And while I have a lot less reader's guilt this way, by the end of the day, it can be hard for me to remember which of my new ebooks I was most excited about. By organizing the books as soon as I get them, I'm forced to think about them a little longer and categorize and prioritize them, which helps me remember them better. Then when I sit down to read, my top book choices are front and center. Read more tips on how to organize your ebooks here.
- Look for author group promotions. Oftentimes, authors with similar genres and writing styles will do group promotions so they can cross promote their content across their combined readers. Often, these promotions come with free books, deeply discounted books, and fun giveaways with prizes. This is a great way to discovered new authors you'll love while scoring free ebooks! Check out some current group promotions from here.
- Keep an eye on book series for deals. I've already mentioned that many authors will offer the first book in their series for free to reel new readers in, but, if you pay close attention, they'll usually promote the other books in their series too. They may not promote each book for free, but they'll often promote sequels at greatly discounted prices. If you're patient, you can end up with a great deal on the whole series!
- Make sure you grab the classic and public domain works. There are so many great books that deserve to be read over and over again that can be found for free because they're in the public domain.
- Never download from or trust torrenting sites. Many sites will steal an author’s book and upload it onto an illegal and sketchy torrent site for other users to steal. Some such sites may even charge you for access to the books they stole. Others hide viruses and other unsavory software in the ebooks that will install onto your computer when the books are downloaded. Some of these sites have to change the URLs every month or so and require you to download all kinds of software to access the site in attempts to outsmart Google and the other search engines that shut them down. No book is worth having so badly that I’d be willing to risk a virus and go through all these steps. It's simply not worth it. Not only are you making an author miss out on much needed sales, but by hurting their overall publishing metrics, you could cause them to also lose out on future publishing deals because their books appear less popular than they actually are. Plus, in addition to risking viruses, Sometimes you’ll download a book, only to discover that it’s not actually the book you thought you were getting. Or, perhaps the formatting is off, it switches languages halfway through, chapters are missing, or someone took the liberty of adding their own writing into the original book. Most authors aren't rich, not even the more popular authors, and the publishing industry is suffering because of sites like these. A good friend of mine has a "New York Time's Bestselling" book but still has to work a full time job to make ends meet. True book lovers don't steal books. With so many legitimate services and ways to find legal, safe, and free online books, it's hard to understand why some people choose to risk these unfavorable sites.
Here are some more tips and tricks to help you score the best free ebooks:
- Book Cave—The #1 Source for Discounted and Free Ebooks
- 10 Signs You Might Be Obsessed with Free Ebooks
- How to Borrow and Read Free Books without Going to the Library
- Download Romance Books for Adults Free Online
- Download, Own, and Read Free Vampire Books Online
- Free Kindle Romance Books
- How to Read Billionaire Romance Novels Online for Free
- How to Find Clean Billionaire Romances: For those who like their billionaires a little less steamy
- Where to Get Pride and Prejudice Online Free
- Alternatives to Ebook Bike for Getting Free Ebooks
- Everything You Need to Know About TUEBL and Downloading Free Ebooks Online
- Is Libgen Safe?
- Library Genesis Alternatives
For even more great articles and resources, make sure to check out our reader blog!
If you're looking for great advice about publishing, writing, editing, or marketing ebooks, check out our author blog!