Doing Mobile SFF for Free!


On the most recent episode of Geek Gab, our hosts talked a little about reading and buying digital vs paper books.

Of course it’s not a new discussion – for some people, there’s no adequate substitute for the physical sensation of a book in their hands. “Real” books are much easier to thumb through or to quickly find that quote you wanted to reference. There’s also the satisfaction of possessing a book, much as one might take pleasure in the having of any other collectible.

Digital books, on the other hand, can be purchased and read almost instantly. They take up no space, and thus you can carry an entire library with you everywhere you go. All you need to read them is your phone (or tablet). Often they’re cheaper, too.

Personally, it’s taken me a long time to get semi-comfortable reading a book on a screen. I still prefer “real” books. My approach, however, has become a hybrid one.

Daddy Warpig mentioned on Geek Gab that he’s become leery of buying digital assets that can be controlled via DRM (digital rights management). There’s pretty recent news of companies like Amazon and Apple pulling products not only from their store, but from the devices of people who “purchased” certain media. Troubling indeed.

For my part, when it comes to books, I almost never buy anything digital. However, there are quite a few quality titles out there, including SFF (!) ones, that can be had for free. These I tend to grab, as there’s really no cost or risk involved.

If this interests you, here are some of the titles I’ve picked up:


The Moon Pool by A. Merritt

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice by James Branch Cabell

The Mucker, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Pellucidar, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

American Fairy Tales by L. Frank Baum

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kindle (app):

The Burning Bridge by Poul Andersontanklords

The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton

The Wild Knight and Other Poems by G.K. Chesterson

The Tank Lords by David Drake*

Fifty-One Tales by Lord Dunsany

Deathworld by Harry Harrison

Edgar Allan Poe: The Complete Tales and Poems

There Will Be War Volumes I and X (edited by Jerry Pournelle)*

La Danza de la Muerte: Seven Stories by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt*

Sjambak by Jack Vance

A few of the Kindle titles are asterisked because they’re not normally free, but I picked them up during a promotion. If you keep your finger on the pulse of the SFF publishing/blogging/writing scene, you’ll sometimes spot these kinds of deals.

Many of the books I’ve listed above have been sitting unread on my phone for a long time, but the great thing about them is that they’re available to me for free. If I need to kill a few minutes, I can pop open any one of those ebooks and read. If they’re ever taken away from me for some reason, well, no monetary loss, and most of them are in the public domain and can be found elsewhere online.

So if you’re looking to read some classics, shore up your library, or maybe sample an older author like Merritt or Dunsany, free ebooks may be a good area for you to explore.

And if you’re a step ahead of me – any recommendations for free SFF books that I’m missing here? Feel free to drop a comment!




  1. I prefer a digital, handheld ereader these days, but that’s because of slowly degrading eyesight.

    I used to have debates about this with a fellow manager at B&N. He was committedly old school. I eventually reached the position where if we were serious about having books that didn’t disintegrate like paper or could disappear electronically for a variety of reasons, we’d have to go back to carving everything on stone obelisks.

    That’s when I got over my philosophical issues with ereaders.

  2. I like eBooks to use for comics, which can get pretty heavy, pretty quickly. With a physical book I don’t need to worry about low batteries, lag, or breaking an expensive reader. There’s also the environmental impact trade-off of ink and paper vs e-waste.

    If eBooks get more people reading, that’s great though.

  3. I’m leery of free electronic copies of books in the public domain. The quality can be all over the place. Better to just grab a copy for $2-3 at the used bookstore.

    • Most of the ones I’ve come across have been decent (as in readable). Always just have to keep in mind that you get what you pay for. I still prefer paper books, for sure, but I’m also not going to turn up my nose at saving a few bucks by reading my Gothic fiction on my phone instead. 😉

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