BookGlutton is a beautifully designed site with a good selection of free eBooks in a variety of genres to suit all tastes. There are already plenty of sites around that allow the downloading of free eBooks, so BookGlutton takes a different approach. It’s not just an eBook download site, it’s also an eBook reader, like the Kindle or Sony Reader but on your computer, and presents the books in an attractive page-turning format on screen.
This can be used by people who aren’t members, but by registering with BookGlutton you can take advantage of more features. It’s possible to discuss the book you’re reading with other BookGlutton members and you can mark your ideas as you progress in the book so that the comments are relevant at each stage. This is done in various ways, including forums, but also by clicking a chat link on the left of the eBook as you read it.
The eBooks have various features typical of eBook reading gadgets like the Kindle. You can mark the pages, for example. The interactive way you can read the books brings together the benefits of downloading and reading books on screen that a Kindle gives, and the social experience of being in a book discussion community. The designers say they will be adding more with a subscription service, but that there will always be a large amount of free content too.
While Maggwire is at beta stage it’s free for readers, and well worth a look. Subscription services for individual well-known publications are already successfully established so there’s good potential for Maggwire when a premium service emerges. The difference with Maggwire is that it aggregates articles by a huge selection of magazines – 650 at the time of writing this review and growing. The selection of magazines is impressive, including major titles and a vast range of subjects.
The website is well laid out with the possibility of searching by publication title or via a toolbar of main subject categories, each with a drop-down menu of sub-categories. The articles are then arranged according to popularity and ratings given as feedback by readers. Rating the articles lets Maggwire see where your interests lie, and on future visits it will personalise the service to suit you.
Clicking on article titles takes you to each publication’s website, and Maggwire also lets you share articles you find interesting by email or on social networks. There’s a Maggwire community so you can post comments and discuss the articles. With reading moving more and more into digital form the likelihood is that services will be needed to select articles and books that should only be available by subscription, and a comprehensive website like Maggwire would have a key role to play.
This website will not only prove attractive to people who want to find free downloadable e-books to read, it will also help authors and publishers discover whether their books are being offered illegally. I regularly use search engines to locate free copies of books, short stories, nonfiction and poetry for reading groups and performance, and this definitely provides an easier method and a much more comprehensive list of finds.
Searches are handled on the main page where users answer the question ‘I want a free book about’. They type their answer into a single field, whether it’s the author, title, subject, publisher, or a combination of these. It would be better to have more advanced search options, but I found that by using a combination of author and title I achieved far better results from this than I have using other approaches. I tested it by searching for Martin Amis and found free books I couldn’t find using other methods, and searching for other books that shouldn’t be offered free brought up unauthorised offerings.
It’s also possible to type in more general queries, such as ‘learn to speak mandarin’ and a comprehensive list appears. It’s not hard to imagine the many ways this could be used by students, researchers and businesses as well as readers. Publishers and authors will be heading straight for it to see if pirate copies are circulating, and with ebooks gaining popularity the site is sure to appeal. The menu also offers PDF books and the ability to look at Last Searches and Top Searches, with Top Searches showing some amusing choices.