A Chromebook and an internet connection can serve as a gateway to millions of books. Staff and students at schools and universities that support Chromebooks are no doubt already well aware of the plethora of fiction and non-fiction books they can read on the Chromebook browser. An education account or an OV chip card often gives access to even more books.
But curious professionals and students of all ages may also want to explore eBooks on a Chromebook. Free resources offer a surprising array of historical books on non-fiction business and technology topics in addition to classic stories. Paid alternatives, including subscription services, provide access to both contemporary and curated content. So open your Chromebook, log in, and explore each of the book resources covered below.
Free access to books
Your local public library should be the first place to access digital books. You usually have to sign up for a free library card to access e-books through sources like cloudLibrary by library, fuss or Run over — or OverDrive’s companion app, Libby.
These resources offer a wide variety of popular general interest fiction and nonfiction books, including relatively recent offerings from many mainstream publishers. You can read books from all three of these services, either in the browser or an installed Android app from each service, respectively. Selection and borrowing limits may vary based on the terms your library system has negotiated with each vendor.
With a library of over 60,000 books, Project Gutenberg remains one of the largest and most notable collections of e-books. The project focuses on books that are older and no longer protected by US copyright laws. As a result, a new wave of books becomes available every year.
Project Gutenberg is an excellent place to read notable literature and fiction. On a Chromebook, you can read Project Gutenberg books in HTML in the browser or, if you prefer, download an EPUB file and import it into your favorite EPUB reader app.
TO SEE: How to export your Google Doc to EPUB (TechRepublic)
Standard ebooks (Image A, right) applies a high standard of formatting and review to a select number of publicly available books that are no longer protected by US copyright. As such, the available books represent a small subset of the number of available books from other sources, such as Project Gutenberg.
However, if a book is available from both Project Gutenberg and Standard Ebooks, choose the book from Standard Ebooks because of its attention to detail. On a Chromebook, you can read standard ebooks online or with any EPUB reader.
A simple search box on one google books help page promises the ability to read and download over 10 million free books, including books from Project Gutenberg and many others. For example, a search for “machine learning” yields several free books on the subject that have recently been published. When you choose to read a book this way, the system displays the image of the scanned pages. As a result, there is no option to change the font or font size.
With roots in the research-oriented world of university systems, HathiTrust has a collection of millions of digitized academic books and documents. Public access allows you to search and read items that are unlikely to be copyrighted, so if you want to study historical academic documents, this can be a very useful resource.
If you are associated with a member college or university, you may be able to sign in with an institution-provided account that gives you greater access to more materials. Available documents are displayed as scanned images by default, with the option to switch the view to plain text.
The internet archive contains a searchable repository of books and texts in various languages. The included items are grouped into three availability categories (always available, 14 day loan, and library loan) and can be viewed in the Chromebook browser.
Another searchable source for digital books, the Open library (Image A, left), is trying to “create one web page for every book ever published.” With a free account, you can temporarily view a selected set of books online to read.
O’Reilly Open books
O’Reilly Open books provides access to a small set of technology-focused books. Many of these were published 10 years or more ago, but the conceptual content remains relevant. For example, several books cover the principles and practices of open-source software that still define and influence IT decisions today.
Other free resources
To explore more free resources, you can download the Library of Congress offers a large number of items, including not only e-books, but also a variety of scanned historical publications, letters, music and other materials. And the Digital Public Library of America provides access to a variety of texts, images and media files in addition to books available through the Palace Bookshelf.
Paid or subscription access to books
Google Play Books
Google Play Books is perhaps the most obvious service against payment. If you’ve already invested in the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook ebook platforms, the process is just as smooth. All three of these systems allow you to read e-books in your Chromebook browser.
Book availability may vary. For example, an e-book edition of “Visualizing Google Cloud: 101 Illustrated References for Cloud Engineers and Architects” is available from both Google Play Books and Amazon (priced at $22 in both cases), but Barnes & Noble only lists the print edition.
Subscription book services
Subscription book services provide access to selected books for a monthly or annual fee. As with a streaming subscription, the value of any given service depends on how well the selection matches a reader’s interests:
- Scribd: For $11.99 a month, Scribd lets you choose from a library of over a million e-books – many from five of the largest book publishers – in addition to a selection of audiobooks and magazine and news articles.
- from Amazon Kindle unlimited: For $9.99 per month, Kindle Unlimited offers a library of more than 3 million e-books, many from individual and independent publishers, in addition to a selection of audiobooks and magazines.
- Epic: Subscribe to Epic Unlimited for about $80 a year to access more than 40,000 books intended for readers up to 12 years old, with plans for parents, educators, and schools.
- I’m reading: For about $144 a year, subscribers, who can be students or avid non-fiction readers, benefit from a library of over a million academic and non-fiction works.
All of these services allow you to read their books in the Chromebook browser (Figure B).
Paid options often facilitate access to books. On a Chromebook, you can read content from Amazon’s Kindle Books purchased with a payment, or access academic and non-fiction titles from Perlego with a subscription.
Paid e-book access to the library for non-residents
Finally, some public libraries make it possible for non-residents to gain access to digital collections for a fee. The Houston Public Library in Texas, the Orange County library system in Florida and the Queen’s Public Library in New York all allow non-residents to get a library card for fees ranging from $40 to $125 per year. This can be a valuable way to access e-books if you don’t have comparable access at your local public library.