Something that the internet has undeniably changed is access to books. If you want to read a novel or a collection of poetry, you’re likely to choose the paperback version. Book publishers themselves claim that around 2% of their whole turnover comes from the sale of e-books, and the author of this text can also confirm that no one gets rich on the electronic version of a book. Situations in which the digital version of a book makes good sense are those in which we need to read only a relatively short passage or we’re looking for a scientific book or document from abroad. In these cases, the digital version becomes considerably more attractive.
Where can books like this be found? And in what formats?
E-books can be found most often in the following four formats:
- PDF – a version for printing. The great advantage of PDFs is the fact that all pages remain in an identical layout, and images and tables are not lost. On the other hand, if you want to read a book like this on a medium such as your mobile phone, you’ll have to prepare for a very tiny font.
- ePub – a format for electronic books. This format allows for easy full-text searches, change of font, background color and page size according to what device you’re reading the book on. It is based on HTML, so it can basically do the same thing as a website. It works on all e-book readers including Kindle.
- Mobi and AZW – these are versions similar to ePub but specially made for Amazon brand devices.
In addition to these formats, you might also encounter simple text (txt) or special comic-book formats, but you’ll almost always be able to get by with the ones mentioned above.
In general, there are four basic ways to get access to e-books on the internet. The first is buying them – you can buy them on Kosmas, Alza or anywhere else e-books are sold. But, it’s good to remember that books in ePub format don’t always have a nice layout. Another possibility is borrowing the book from the library – libraries have a large amount of e-books in digital form and it’s useful to ask whether you can borrow what you need.
Each library deals with book loans in a different manner – some will give you access to eReading, while others will loan you a reader with the uploaded titles.
The third version is stealing the books – take a look at either Uložto if you’re using Czech books or Libgen for academic literature. You can also try other file storage sites. This method is not legal, but at the same time, it should be stressed that downloading and reading itself is not criminal – only sharing such content is.
The final option available is finding books that are freely accessible on the internet.
If you choose this option, you’re sure to find the following resources useful:
- Knihovny.cz – the Czech national portal offers the option to search for any book in Czech libraries. You can use their database of e-books with over 2100 titles.
- MKP – this Prague library offers a visually appealing catalogue of Czech digital books primarily in the fiction genre.
- Kramerius5 – this is a good quality source with over 9 million Czech digitized pages, mainly from older publications. If you’re planning to read Vrchlický, Zeyer or similar authors, you’re at the right address. The oldest documents can be found in the Manuscriptorium.
- Czech digital library – this source contains digitized items (126 thousand monographs, 2.5 thousand maps, 2.8 thousand periodicals, …), some of which are freely accessible while others are available only in libraries.
- Google Books – probably the largest collection of books in the world. They cannot be downloaded and must be read directly in the browser. It offers a mix of full texts, previews and individual chapters. Its great advantage is a wide spectrum of digitized documents (from around the 17th century until the present), exceptional language diversity and full-text searches.
- Archive.org – offers a large collection of American literature with free licenses. If you’re looking for texts in English, especially older ones, then you’ll definitely find this server useful. You can download and read the texts on your own device.
- E-booksdirectory – offers roughly 11 thousand English-language scientific books. This is primarily a very good resource for scientific papers. Its interesting categorization of e-books is also an advantage.
- Manybooks – offers 50 thousand digitized books in English for free in clearly structured form.
- Gutenberg – is a platform that is no longer being expanded, but formerly was an attempt at digitizing European cultural heritage.
- Scirbd – is a platform that focuses primarily on self-publishing. You’ll find roughly 50 million documents here.