Digital Crave

Is it safe to download free ebooks?

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If you're reading this blog post, chances are you own an ebook reader or tablet, and are curious about free content available.

The good news? You can download a ton of freebies to your Amazon Kindle, B&N Nook, Kobo, iPad or Android tablet -- but only if you stick to reputable websites or ereader stores on your device itself.

That is, there are millions of ebooks you can download for free for your ebook reader, many of which are classics from the public domain such as Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Dracula by Bram Stoker or Shakespeare's works. Great sites include Gutenberg.org or Archive.org.

Some newer works are available for free, too, either by independent authors looking for distribution and publicity as well as known authors who agree to offer some of their older works temporarily free to help promote newer books (such as snagging a 5 year-old James Patterson novel on the Kindle digital store).

But there are a number of suspicious websites that offer "free" ebooks to current New York Times bestsellers, such as E.L. James' Fifty Shades trilogy, Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl or No Easy Day by Mark Owen with Kevin Maurer. This is "piracy," defined as the unauthorized duplication and/or distribution of copyrighted material.

And there is often a price to this "free" content, perhaps downloaded from BitTorrent sites. Many of these .pdf, .epub, .zip and .exe files contain malware (malicious software) that could give your computer a virus, install spyware (monitor your web surfing habits) or place adware on your system such as changing your web browser's home page, adding a toolbar you didn't want and causing pop-up advertisements (and overall, slowing down the performance of your machine).

Rule of thumb: if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Stick with the abovementioned reputable sites or your ebook reader's official store (such as B&N, Kobo, Kindle, Google Books or iBookstore).

And of course, be sure to run good anti-malware software and keep it updated to catch suspicious files that could harm your computer and your wallet.

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