With all the of the hype around the iPad and, before it, the Kindle, electronic books have been gaining quite a bit of traction. Yet, for all of their virtues, e-book readers are like any other hot new gadget the cool kids like to drool over: they're just breaking off a small slice of PC functionality and making it easy, self-contained, and mobile, like Cisco and Netapp and Nintendo before them. Truth is, you can read a book pretty well on a netbook or ultraportable, so long as you don't mind the backlit LCD. Heck, there's even Kindle for the PC, with the ability to sync your place in each book to your other devices. I have to admit, though, that I'm surprised by how much I prefer reading books on my iPhone instead, primarily through Stanza. (Although there's Kindle for the iPhone, too.) I've become a habitual iPhone reader, mainly because I found myself caught on flight with nothing else to do and gave it a try.
Regardless of which reader you use, there are associated download services that offer a nice catalog of freely downloadable books. Many of them are older books, oftentimes classics, but others are new books from hungry authors who simply want the exposure. So far, I've been enjoying some of Jack London's books, including White Fang. Some really intriguing studies of animal (and human) nature there.
I also read one H.P. Lovecraft story, "The Call of Cthuhlu," but I found it to be overhyped—Cthulhu, I mean. Lovecraft oversells him and delivers less than he portends, in my view. Heresy, perhaps: I know the man has been influential, but that's how it struck me.
I'm currently making my way through the entire corpus of Sherlock Holmes stories, which are very entertaining, too. These are probably my favorite free books so far. I expect I'll have read practically everything by Doyle before I'm finished. Looks like he has lots of sci-fi stories to offer, as well.
The questions of the evening are: Do you use an e-reader? What readers and free books would you recommend? If you've not tried it, let me encourage you to grab Kindle for the PC or something else and browse through the lists of most popular free downloads. Then come back and offer any recs you can.