Reading old books

I thought I’d do a post on the best way to read old books – at least the best way I have found. Here are the steps involved:

1) Get a Kindle

2) Go to either Google Books or Project Gutenberg (or some other sites that publish books, e.g. At Google Books search for “full view” books. Here’s an example of a title page. You can then click the “Download” link in the upper right and download the book in EPUB format (pdf from Google Books will not work for this strategy – see below*). At Gutenberg you can save the book in html or txt format (sometimes EPUB is also available).

3) Downlaod Stanza.

4) Open Stanza and open the EPUB/html/txt/pdf file of the book you downloaded. (Stanza will read a lot of formats, so you can pretty much convert any text file to read on your Kindle).

5) In the “File” menu of Stanza, there is an option to export the book. Do so in “Amazon Kindle” format.

6) Connect you Kindle to your computer and transfer the new .azw file (Amazon Kindle format) to you Kindle.

7) Read the book.

My wife got me a Kindle for something like $250. I’ve probably read almost 200 old books on it and paid $0 for each book. That’s a $/book cost of $1.25 and I’m still going.

In an afternoon, you’ll easily be able to transfer a couple hundred books to you Kindle. There’s no cheaper, easier way to read the best books in the world.

Note: I was wrong about the iPad.  See the first comment

* There are two types of text pdf files available. In one type, the text is search-able and selectable. In the other, each page of the pdf is a picture of a page in a book (this is what Google Books publishes). You can transfer the former to you Kindle in the method described above. You can transfer the latter to you Kindle as well, but the latter will not display as well and the process is different (in short, you have to send to an email address at Amazon and they’ll send you back a converted file for free).


3 Responses to Reading old books

  1. Buckethead says:

    I thought about getting a kindle, but in the end decided to wait for Apple. epubs from Gutenberg work great in Apple’s iBooks app. For an additional $2, I got the GoodReader app, which is an excellent pdf viewer. I actually prefer this option, because I can download the pdfs from Google Books, and they look charmingly old-timey on my iPad. The epubs from google are often twitchy – the OCR is not perfect. GoodReader also has the advantage of wireless syncing, you have to actually plug in the iPad to update the iBooks app.

    I’m reading all three books from Moldbug’s challenge at once, which is slowing me down, but I’m enjoying bouncing back and forth. After that, I’ve got the entire Harvard Classics loaded up and ready to read. My wife’s just into volume three of that.

    Have to say, I really, really love my iPad.

  2. Scribd can be a great source for books too. I just found Carol Quigley’s Triumph and Hope: A History of Our Times, which is one of the best history’s I’ve ever read. It is just ruthlessly fair. You can also find books like The Road to Serfdom or The Great Contraction.

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