E-books, audio books, paper books...
Where can you find books in English? 📘
Reading in English is great, but where can you find books in English, be it e-books, paper books or audio books?
And where can you find free or paid books? Today, you will get some great recommendations, so you can spend your time reading in English as opposed to wasting it looking for resources.
Where can you download books in English?
You have two options for downloading - either e-books (electronic books) or audio books.
Where can you find e-books?
In order to download books in English for free and legally, the best option is the website Project Gutenberg. This project has been collecting books which have found themselves in the public domain since 1971! They digitize them and then offer them for free downloading.
⚠️ Warning! The site is based in the USA and, since the authors' rights are not the same everywhere, a book which is already in the public domain in the United States could in fact NOT be in the public domain in your country and thus illegal to download. That's obviously not very practical, but what can you do? To summarize - if you want to be sure to respect the law, you have to look at the book's publication date in your own country.
The website Project Gutenberg, where to find e-books in English
Given the nature of the project, Project Gutenberg offers mostly classics in literature. In their top 100 most popular books you can find Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and even Kama Sutra... which goes to show there's a little something for any taste!
A lot of the books are not super recent but have established themselves as classics. We could also name Mark Twain's Machiavelli, Kafka, Oscar Wilde, H.G. Wells... and a ton of others!
On the technical side, the books are offered in the following formats: HTML, EPUB, Mobi/ Kindle, PDF, and plain text, which will make sure that you can use it on pretty much any device, computers, phones, tablets, etc.!
➤ Project Gutenberg, more than 54,000 electronic books in the public domain.
Having free stuff is great but if you want to get something a bit more recent, you'll have to open your wallet. Where can you buy books in English to download?
The most popular option is clearly Amazon and its Kindle. The big advantage Amazon has is its incomparable variety of customer comments on their American site, Amazon.com. Having so many opinions will help you make your choice, while the fact that Amazon is the biggest library in the world makes the American giant unbeatable.
Books in English for Kindle
A little trick I use several times a month: do your research on English books on the American site and enjoy the vast number of comments left by customers. Then, once you have found a book you like, edit the page's address: replace
.com with your own country's code. If you're from Spain for example, it would be
.es and if you're from Russia, it would be
.ru. This will take you to your country's version of the site and you can get an extract on your Kindle.
You could also go directly to Amazon's address in your country and its Kindle section, then click on "Books in English", but keep in mind that the critiques are not as many.
If you would prefer to avoid Amazon, the other big option for buying e-books in English is Kobo. Kobo is the name of a variety of electronic readers similar to Kindle and, a site you can use to buy books for Kobo is Kobo.com.
➤ Amazon.com, more than 1.4 million e-books
➤ Kobo.com, electronic books
Where can you find audio books
Reading is good but working on your listening comprehension (and practice English in the public transport) is even better! Audio books in English will help you make great progress in learning English - whether you regard it as the language of Shakespeare or Britney Spears!
Free audio books
Let's start from the free resources.
LoyalBooks (previously known as BooksShouldbeFree) is a collection of audio books in English in the public domain. These audio books have been recorded by volunteers by the project Librivox from the books in the public domain (cf. Project Gutenberg above).
The books are in MP3 format and on the site, below each audio book, you can find links to free e-book versions, which will allow you to follow the audiobook in English with the text. This is extremely practical to relearn to read English after years spent developing bad habits at school.
The site LoyalBooks
Just like for Project Gutenberg, we have a whole collection of classics in front of us. The majority of these are fiction but we can also find some famous titles, such as Henry David Thoreau's Walden or Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
For your information, the narrators are from the whole world. You can check out a table of the narrators' accents or maybe these fables by Aesop, recorded in a variety of accents from the whole world (the second volume is here).
FYI, LoyalBooks and Libribox have more or less the same content. The books have been recorded by volunteers for Librivox, while the site LoyalBooks is maybe more user-friendly and allows to easily access to the version of the book.
➤ LoyalBooks, more than 7,000 audio books and e-books in the public domain.
➤ Librivox, more than 11,000 audio books in the public domain.
Paid audio books
The biggest audio book seller is Audible, a company by Amazon. Their main competitor is Kobo, which we mentioned earlier, which also offers audio. Unfortunately, I would not recommend either one.
Currently, all of the audio books are sold in a protected format with DRM. This means that when you buy a book from each company you can only read it on their own software, either Audible or Kobo.
You want to listen to your book with another software? You want to convert it into a different format? You want to use it on a device which doesn't support their software? Well, you can't.
(If you want to skip my rant, go to the next section).
Or, the way Audible's help page puts it:
Can I convert my Audible audiobooks into MP3 files?
Unfortunately, Audible audio files cannot be converted into MP3 or any other file format. The reason for this is because we utilize security technologies to protect the intellectual property rights of our content providers and authors.
The last time I ordered something from Audible, I found myself engraving the book on CD... so I could then rip the CD to MP3... so I can finally listen on my phone! I had bought two books. The second one - I just downloaded from a torrents site so I can easily get access to the MP3 version (which is legal, since I have the original). Sure, that was ten years ago, but the DRM situation has not really changed since then.
A campaign by FSF to fight against DRM
I understand that producers want to protect their production (as an independent author, I probably understand it better than them). The problem is that their system penalizes the client. If I want to pirate a book, it's not so hard to find it, the peer-to-peer sites are overflowing with options for downloading! And the big irony is that if you pirate, you can enjoy the product however you wish, whereas if you pay, you're blocked from everywhere.
To sum it up, we're penalized because we bought a product legally... That's the payoff. You see the problem, right?
The book industry, just like the music one before, is still very sensitive and seems to forget that it's supposed to serve its clients but, in practice, it disserves them. It encourages piracy out of a sense of revenge, instead of encouraging its customers.
(I won't go into details of the impossibility to read a book with a system of vocal synthesis or even a problem of restriction depending on the country... Notice that Kindle/ Kobo are not so much better when it comes to DRM but their simplicity and the fact that they're more user-friendly do something that helps forget about the problem.)
In short, I can't really recommend anything legal.
Summaries of non-fiction books
We should definitely mention Blinklist in our list, which is an application and a website which allow to listen to non-fiction book summaries.
Each title is available in the form of a summary in audio format (15 minutes) or text, entirely in English. Very practical to listen to English and learn something while you stroll or maybe while you're in the public transport (just try opening a book on a busy metro line!).
The production of non-fiction books has been extremely rich for years now and it's impossible to follow everything. Blinklist helps face this stream of information and allows to quickly browse through many books.
A screencap of the application Blinklist
This system is even more useful given the big number of books (I believe especially the ones in the entrepreneurial domain). The way I see it is that the author starts with one good idea, but the first chapter contains everything, while the rest of the book is repetition of what has already been said.
With Blinklist, you can learn something every day, while working on your English. If I know the people who read our blog well, I think there will be many among you who will appreciate it!
Now, let's not kid ourselves - these summaries allow you to briefly browse through a book, so you can handle the avalanche of information available in our current world... but it's still quite superficial.
If you want to go deeper, with all the benefits that reading has to offer (think with a clear mind, benefit from the experience from an author who's taken their time to organize their thoughts on paper, to see things in detail, etc.), nothing will replace reading the complete version of a great book.
Blinklist is still, however, an excellent tool to discover.
➤ Blinklist, summaries of over 2,000 non-fiction books.
Where can you buy books in English?
Reading on paper always brings a certain pleasure which we simply can't get from a cold screen, regardless of how practical technology has become (especially for saving certain passages).
It's once again hard not to mention Amazon, be it the American site, the domain used in your country or one of its many regional variations (UK, Germany, Italy...)
Books are becoming more and more available in the whole world at the same time, so you can just order on the closest site. If you really want to, you can also order from an American website, but keep in mind that it'll typically take between 2 and 4 weeks, depending on overseas shipping.
What sets Amazon apart from its competition is its variety and quality of customer comments, as well as their sense of unparalleled customer support.
If there are some independent options you would recommend, do let us know!
Well, yes, before the Internet, people used to go to shops to buy stuff. And there's still a few small bookstores which have resisted the invaders.
Almost every big city has a specialized English library. Look for English bookshop in the city which interests you and you should be able to find one.
Okay, so what do you need? Books, lots of books...
➤ Look for "English bookshop" on Google Maps.
I hope I answered your questions on where to find books in English. Now, it's up to you to find the best ones! Explore, read, and discover books in English... Adapt them to your tastes and your way of learning. I hope they'll take a big place in your life!
We just saw where to find books in English. Now, you surely want some tips on how to read in English, so check out this:
- Reading in English - What should your first book be? Where can you find bilingual books? What tools can you use to help you read in English, online, on the Internet? And many more tips on reading which you'll love and will help you improve your English!