I love books. I love the way the feel, the way they smell, the way they look on a bookshelf, and most of all I love the stories and knowledge they contain. I also love technology. It's only natural that I would be fascinated by the way that these two intersect. In my life I have seen the world of books transform rapidly in many ways, from where you buy books to how you read them. Today we seem to have less free time than ever, which causes many to think "I don't have time for reading!" Hopefully the following resources will simplify the reading process and show that reading doesn't need to be as time consuming as it used to be.
1) Amazon/eBay: I've plugged both of these well-known sites before, but hopefully when I bring them up I can introduce a new or lesser-known feature. One of the main reasons I like Amazon is because of the Amazon Marketplace, where small businesses and individuals sell new and used copies of the products you are searching for. I mentioned a few weeks ago that this is great for electronics and cables, but it is also a great place to go if you are searching for a specific book. If you are not looking for a brand new book you can often find lightly used copies for over 50% off the original price. Popular books go for as little as $0.01 (plus shipping). Kindle users already know about buying eBooks from Amazon, one of the largest eBook sellers on the web.
eBay is also a great place to find physical books. A trick that I have found for buying books on eBay is to search for an author or series you are interested in along with the word "lot" or "books." Often you can find people selling multiple books in one listing for very little money. I've done this a few times, allowing me to build a nice little library of a few of my favorite authors for very little money, sometimes getting about five books for around $12 - $15 total. We're talking the prices of a thrift store with the selection of the internet.
One thing I would caution you from buying on eBay is eBooks. Digital books for $0.01 are often scams (either to get your personal information or to inflate their ratings) and often the books are pirated. Of course we don't condone illegal downloading of intellectual property yourself, but we are ESPECIALLY against giving money to people who do this to make a profit.
2) Audible/iTunes: Books on tape are a thing of the past, but that's saying more about tapes than recorded books. Audiobooks live on through iPods and CDs, although CDs seem to be going the way of the cassette tape, as well. There are plenty of options for downloading audiobooks, two of the most popular being Audible and iTunes. Both of these services offer audiobooks (often costing less than an book on CD bought from a bookstore) which are fantastic for people who "don't have time to read." With a book on your iPod you can listen to a chapter or two on your way to work or in line at the post office. (You could probably get a whole novel done if you have to go to the DMV.) iTunes also offers iBooks (which are different from the iBook) which are eBooks that can be read on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod Touch.
3) Project Gutenberg: If you are looking for the fan site for Steve Guttenberg I might direct you elsewhere, but if old, classic literature is what you are after, I would highly suggest checking out Project Gutenberg. This website offers free digital copies of books whose copyright has expired for your computer or eReader and offers a wide variety of choices, from Sherlock Holmes to The Art of War to the 2010 CIA World Factbook. The Top 100 list on their site is enough to keep you occupied for at least a few years.
4) Google Books: Surprise: Google does books, too! Google Books has traditionally been very helpful from an academic standpoint, allowing users to search for subjects through the text of millions of books. Excerpts from the book containing the search terms (or sometimes whole books if the copyright has run out or if the publisher allows it) are displayed, which is great if you are trying to identify a book based on a quote or if you need more context than what has been provided to you elsewhere. Also, links are given as to where you can purchase the book, either online or in a store.
Google has lately gotten into the eBook game, selling these digital books and storing the books and your progress in the cloud so that you can easily switch platforms without any trouble. They also provide the option of buying their eBooks through local, independent bookstores, supporting businesses typically hurt by these new digital advances.
5) Goodreads: Goodreads is unlike my other picks in that it is a social media network for readers. Once you register an account you can start rating and reviewing books you've read and making lists (called "shelves") of books that you would like to read, your favorite (or least-favorite) books, books sorted by genre, or anything else you want. You can read reviews from other members and recommend books to people with similar tastes. Goodreads is a great place to learn about books you may have missed and to keep track of what you have read and what you would still like to read in the future. The only problem that I have run into on this site is that I typically add books to my "to read" shelf at a much higher rate than I am able to finish them!
The digital age has done wonders for books, increasing access to dozens of new platforms like computers, smartphones, tablets, and eReaders. As it becomes easier to access books, it also becomes easy to forget about the "old" way of doing things. If you still want traditional bookstores to exist (both independent and chain bookstores...remember Borders?) you should remember to support them and give them business. This doesn't mean that you should disregard all new technology, though. If reading is one of your favorite hobbies, or perhaps it is something you would like to get back into, I hope these resources can give you some new ideas.