Looking on the web for some ebooks for sale in the right format (EPUB for me), I have been amazed by the number of sites pretending to offer them for free download, even though these are in copyright commercial books. Some others offers books at a very low price.

I am aware that some authors (notoriously Cory Doctorow, for example) allow that, but it seems still to be the exception rather than the rule.

My last attempt was when searching for "The A.I. Chronicles" Peralta epub

What is hiding behind these sites?

How do I know which sites are actually conducting a legitimate business?

For example, I found on http://www.mobileread.com a pointer to a site https://www.humblebundle.com/, selling book bundles at a low price, for example a sci-fi bundle. Though old, they are all books under copyright, AFAIK.

How do I know whether the site is conducting a legitimate business? What are signs that distinguish a scam from a legitimate low price seller?

  • @Ed Cottrell: I (hopefully) clarified the question and wonder if it can be re-opened in its current form.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 14:04
  • @TomAu The edits don't really change the question. You're still asking us how to evaluate sellers of ebooks. This isn't actually a question about ebooks, per se.
    – elixenide
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 14:09
  • This is an extremely relevant and important question. How do you decide whether an ebook is pirated or legit is both a technical and social (and commercial ) question. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 19:53
  • I asked the question in a different way here: ebooks.stackexchange.com/questions/6734/… Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


The short answer is that any website offering permanent access to large numbers of copyrighted books, for very little money, from multiple publishers is unlikely to be legitimate.

HumbleBundle offers its bundles for limited time.

Book Barbarian, ManyBooks, BookBub, Luzme, and no doubt many others, search the web on your behalf and find books that are currently being offered from reputable sites, like Amazon and Kobo, for little or nothing. Almost all of their free books are available only for a day or two, but in any case to get them you will have to click through to a recognizable merchant site.

Then, publishers like Baen Books offer a large number of their e-books for free as loss-leaders. You'll notice that it's highly unusual for them to give you more than the first one or two books in a series, and the rest will cost you retail.

Another clue to legitimacy is if the site offers payment in multiple currencies: there's almost no chance that any site accepting payment in US$, GBP and EUR is legitimate, because very few books are made available from a single distributor worldwide.

All that said, if a site seems too good to be true, google that site's name and the names of some of the authors. Odds are they already know somebody's pirating their work, and they frequently rant about those sites on their own blogs.

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