One common complaint about ebooks is that they’re just too expensive. But you don’t have to pay those prices if you don’t want to.
The truth is: some of them are. It’s not unusual to see an ebook for $20 or more when the hardcover can be ordered for $15.
There’s a huge amount of classic science fiction that’s in the Public Domain. Tons of free classics, many of which predate the “Golden Age,” are easily available for anyone to download and read. There are even a number of recent books that can be legally obtained for free. The best part of it is that a lot of these books: classics from writers like HG Wells, HP Lovecraft, and H Beam Piper (and those are just ones with the first initial H) are the same ones you’d have to pay for at many online bookstores.
Even though it’s not always the best place to go for ebooks, the source for most of them is Project Gutenberg and most of their SF can be found at the aptly named Science Fiction Bookshelf which is regularly updated. The only catch is that most of their offerings are either plain text or HTML and often require some work.
Probably the best place to find Public Domain and other free legal ebooks is the Mobileread online community. While most if not all the books here are also available at Project Gutenberg, Mobileread members put a lot of time and effort into making very high quality ebooks in a number of popular formats. Where Gutenberg provides raw text, Mobileread provides the same text in proofread editions that often have additions like cover art, a table of contents, and all the formatting that Gutenberg leaves out. I recommend going here first for Public Domain ebooks.
Another very good source is Manybooks which serves up repackaged Public Domain books in a number of formats. One thing I like about this site is that books often show up here at the same time as some of the major ebook retailers, so if you see a classic book at the ebook store, it’s often a good idea to check Manybooks before you buy it.
I don’t want to turn this into a list of links, but I should mention some other places, particularly Feedbooks and Munseys. Feedbooks has a very useful document converter, and also supports newspaper and magazine feeds. Munseys, formerly Blackmask, has a great selection of old magazine fiction, some of it from the nineteenth century.
Any one of these sites can comfortably provide more reading material than most people can read in a lifetime, and much more than many people do read in a lifetime. Still, sometimes you want to read something a little more modern, and luckily that’s available too. Baen books provides the Baen Free Library, which contains over a hundred books that are free for download.