Plenty of free e-reader stuffers

For a long time, I swore I would never get an e-reader. Books are such joyful objects. They are fun to hold, it feels good to flip pages, and they even smell good. But then last year, a friend let me use his Kindle and I quickly decided e-readers were not so bad after all. This year, I got one of my own for Christmas and I am already having a blast with it.

The best thing about waiting to get a popular tech device is that the market has time to mature, meaning that prices fall and content becomes plentiful. For those who have recently received a new e-reader as a gift and are wondering what to put in it, options abound, and many of them don't cost anything.

The Ashland branch and Medford main libraries are offering a free presentation titled "E-Readers and More," which will show patrons how to use Library2Go to access their collection of thousands of e-books, audiobooks and videos. It's a good service I expect will be quite helpful for both new e-reader owners and veterans. There will be time after the presentation for questions and some one-on-one assistance. The Ashland presentation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5. The Medford presentation is from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28. For more information, call 541-774-8679.

If the riches of the Jackson County libraries aren't enough, Open Library, at, can expand your borrowing zone to more than 1,000 participating libraries, and Project Gutenberg, at, offers more than 36,000 free public domain titles, including many well-known canon classics. Now there is no excuse for not making good on that promise to finally read "A Tale of Two Cities."

Device manufacturers are also a good source for free reads. Amazon offers Kindle users loads of free works, such as "Pride and Prejudice" and "Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass." Barnes & Noble has similar free offerings for its Nook reader at Likewise, iPad owners will find tons of free books available, written by hundreds of authors ranging from Edwin A. Abbott to Vincent Zandri, via Apple's iBooks service.

Even book publishers are hopping, carefully, on the free-content bandwagon. Penguin books is offering a Holiday eSampler, which can be downloaded free for Nook, iPad, Kindle and Sony e-readers at The sampler includes more than 40 excerpts with something to suit most every age and genre. There are classics such as John Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath" and Judy Blume's "Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing," and more recent hits such as "The Help," by Kathryn Sockett, and "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," by Amy Chua. There even are excerpts of books that have not yet been released. With many famous names as well as some lesser-known writers, it is a great way to discover a new favorite. Of course, Penguin is hoping readers take a shine to a few and decide to buy the whole e-book.

One can also download free or low-cost games for e-readers. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble offer games such as blackjack and Scrabble. I'm not a big game person, but they're fun and it feels like I'm maximizing my gadget.

To date, I've downloaded a few of my favorite Jane Austen classics for free and purchased Jeffrey Eugenides' most recent novel, "The Marriage Plot." I suspect it will feel a little odd at first to curl up on the sofa with it and a cup of tea, but the hardcover book is a weighty 416 pages, so I'm excited at the prospect of toting my slim little e-reader in my purse and sneaking in a few pages while waiting at the dentist's office or running errands.

Angela Decker is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at

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