I'm trying to make this page into a reasonable summary of online book resources.
So far it's pretty short, so if you know of any good sites that aren't listed here,
Alas, the days when everybody online was selling books at huge discounts seem to be over... evidently somebody realized that to stay in business they had to make a profit. A good first step is Addall, which is a nifty site that will let you search for a book, and then give you prices at a number of different sites.
Over the years I've bought stuff from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books A Million, and Varsity Books without any major problems. Although they don't always have the best prices these days, Amazon seems to have the most useful information and reviews about each book it lists. It's still my favorite place to browse, although their customized reccomendations can get a bit irritating. Other online sellers include The Tattered Cover, Borders, and Powells.
Recently ebooks have started to become more available. I have to say that I'm not terribly enamored of the usual implementation... in most cases (Microsoft Reader, Mobipocket, Adobe Reader) these books require you to register, a process which locks them to a limited number of devices. IMHO this eliminates one of the handier features of books, namely that they're highly portable.
In any case, there are a few alternatives:
Baen (a sci-fi publisher) sells many of their books in an open format through their webscription, and free library sites. They have many of their current titles, as well as a bunch of backlist stuff available either free or for very reasonable prices. Granted, the stuff they publish may not be for everybody, but they're definitely on the right track ebook-wise. Interestingly, they say that hard copy sales have gone up quite a bit, especially on backlist titles since they started the free library.
Fictionwise is a bookseller that sells ebooks & only ebooks. Although many of their books are in a secure format, many are available in plain old pdf for reasonable prices. Full books cost a bit less than a mass market paperback, and short stories are generally less than a dollar. I've found them to be a good source of backlist stuff, especially short stories (by Kage Baker and George RR Martin among others.
Used Book Sites
Over the past few years I've bought a number of used books online, most of them through ABEbooks, and Bibliofind. Unfortunately, ABE seems to be charging a service fee these days, and Bibliofind has been consumed/shut down by Amazon. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have services to locate used books, but I've found them to be very expensive compared to dealing directly with the independent sellers.
Public Domain Etext Libraries
Many of the books in the public domain are available online in ASCII text format or in some cases, in html. Project Gutenberg is an effort to convert books currently in the public domain into ASCII text. Currently they have several thousand works online with more added every month. Another great resource is the Online Books Page.
A while ago I made a list of online books that I read and liked... it's located here.
I have to admit that I'm a chronic lurker... however, even if you don't post anything there's a lot to be gained by poking through the newsgroups on occasion. A few groups that I'm familiar with are:
In addition to these there's about a zillion and one groups dedicated to individual authors.
Here are the homepages of all the publishers I've managed to locate online... I'm trying to slowly expand on this page, so hopefully the list will get longer.
St. Martin's Press
W. W. Norton and Co.
Del Rey (a division of Random House)
And Other Stuff...
The Children's Literature Web Guide is a great place to start if you're looking for info on children's books.
The SF-Lovers Page is a useful place... lists of award winners, FAQs & all sorts of good junk.
Everything you ever wanted to know about Jane Austen and then some has been assembled on the Jane Austen Info Page.
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Jan Knowlton - talk2me(at)boop(dot)org