May 3 2010
I love books. I love the way books smell. I love the tactile sensation of the cool, smooth pages and the sturdy binding. When you hold a book, you’re holding what may be an entire life’s work in your hands. A book, any book really, is an author’s vision that has been realized. Whether it’s the history of a certain time and place, a fantastical and surreal story, or the writer’s own personal story, a book can be a wondrous thing that transports the reader to another world. It’s old-school escapism. Your parents read books, your grandparents read books, and even their grandparents, when not actively hunting or building log cabins with their bare hands, probably read books too. Over time, a favorite book becomes worn, dog-eared, soft and tattered. Picking up an old book that you’ve read a few dozen times feels like coming home from a long day. Truly, there is something to be said for holding a real, paper-and-glue book in your hands.
But there’s also something to be said for not having to lug those heavy books around. And there’s even more to be said about being able to enjoy over 150,000 books on your desktop or laptop computer for free. You can do this, or buy those same books to watch on your smartphone or PDA for less than one dollar, at Onread.
OnRead puts a library that includes many current bestsellers and classics right at your fingertips. Simply search for a book, click on the title, click the “Read online for FREE” link, and start reading. The books are arranged mainly by genre, but you can also browse alphabetically by author name or type in search terms in the Quick Search bar. It’s legal, easy to use, and there are a staggering collection of titles from which to choose.
In addition to the ability to read books online for free, you can download the books in a variety of formats for a very low price. One of the big problems with buying e-books has been that the cost from most online retailers simply isn’t in keeping with the product. The production cost of an e-book is virtually nothing and yet many website still sell the books for the same cost as in retail stores. At OnRead, the books cost 99 cents each. That’s not a typo; they’re really just a dollar per book.
Do you know what else you can get for a dollar these days? Virtually nothing. You can buy a cheap fast-food cheeseburger for a dollar, but that’s about it. And the cheeseburger, quite frankly, barely counts as food. It’s mostly sawdust. At OnRead, you can download the latest books from the likes of Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, and Stephen King, not to mention classic literature from Tolkien, Dickens and Twain, for less than a bottle of Mountain Dew. I don’t know what has gotten into the people who run OnRead, but finally e-books are being sold at a price that justifies the cost of production, which is practically nothing. At a dollar per book, the publishers and authors are still making money hand-over-fist and you’re getting a fair price. It’s unfortunate that a fair deal like this is cause for me to rant and rave, but it’s unique to find this in our modern world. It’s an anomaly.
In addition to the over-inflated price, the e-books that you buy from the big online retailers tend to only work on the device for which it was purchased. Digital rights management has been touted as technology that protects the author but in reality it only serves to frustrate hard-working consumers who spend their cash and can’t even transfer the e-book between their own electronic devices.
The OnRead take on digital rights management is refreshing: there aren’t any. OnRead gives you the freedom to use the book as you see fit. You can download in a variety of formats that include RTF, TXT, PDF, EPUB, PalmDOC, and FB2. The downloaded file can then be used on many popular multimedia devices including the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Sony Reader, Bookeen Cybook OPUS, B&N Nook, and many more.
If you’re having trouble deciding where to start, I recommend the OnRead Reviews section. The reviews are written by real people, not stuffy paid-by-the-word book critics with obscure degrees in Medieval Russian Literature. It’s more like listening to a friend talk about a book that they read. This is perfect for someone like me. I don’t need the reviewer to go into detail on the underlying themes and draw parallels between current world news and the book’s storyline; I’m going to do that on my own. When I read a review, I like to hear one of three things: it was good, it was boring but had some decent parts, or it was so bad that it made me wish I was illiterate. Thankfully, these are the kinds of reviews the users write at OnRead.
For a book lover who is woefully behind on their reading list, the OnRead site should be a mandatory browser bookmark. With a huge selection of free books to read online and download prices that are spookily in line with what they should be, you should make a habit of checking to see if OnRead has the book you want before going anywhere else.