The perennial question about e-books is whether or not they will replace printed books. I think the whole debate is ridiculous. Printed books are not going anywhere, and neither are electronic ones. They each have distinct advantages. I like electronic text for ease of searching, for emergency homework purposes, for research, for portability and for immediacy: a downloaded book is available within minutes; a printed one requires a trip to the library or store. The popular Adobe Acrobat Portable Document Format (PDF) can be read on screen, printed or transferred to a handheld device. Pick up your copy of the free Acrobat Reader from Adobe.com.
Librarian Eric Morgan has created an electronic collection of American and English literature, along with works of Western philosophy, with two very unique features. First, many of the documents have concordances which make them searchable online. Need to find a specific passage for a homework assignment ? First locate the book (by title or author) and then click on Use Concordance. Second, downloadable PDFs are created on-the-fly, so you can specify your preferred font, page width, and number of columns.
From Jane Austen to Oscar Wilde, The Electronic Book Company brings us the best work of forty authors. Rather than a single downloadable file, however, these books are packaged with multiple index files (to improve searching) into ZIP files. This makes accessing this collection is a bit more cumbersome, but their 5.9" x 7.76" page layout is nice, and their selection excellent.
Penn State's e-library includes original work published by the university, alongside classic English literature. The classics section totals hundreds of books representing forty-eight authors. I like the Penn State files because many of the books include illustrations, and instead of the usual 8.5" by 11" page size (which is good for printing) Penn State uses a landscape orientation of 8.33" by 6.25" which works very nicely for onscreen reading.
PlanetPDF brings us twenty-five popular classics in two different PDF formats: tagged and non-tagged. Tagged files are for those intending to read the books on handheld screens, such as Palm Pilots or Pocket PCs. If this is not you, you can download the non-tagged PDF files, which are smaller. This entry page includes the first ten books (from Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities" to Kafka's "Metamorphosis.") To access the rest of the books, use the menu links in the right-hand vertical yellow sidebar.