Ask us: where to get ebooks

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

One of the questions we're most commonly asked about e-readers is where in Australia one can obtain ebooks.

(Credit: Amazon)

We have great news! The internet is global, so there are websites worldwide from which you can purchase and download books.

One important thing to note is that not all e-readers support all file formats. There are a number of different ebook file types; the most universal one is ePub, which is the open ebook standard and official standard of the International Digital Publishing Forum.

The only e-reader available in Australia that does not support ePub is Amazon's Kindle; instead, Amazon has its own file format, AZW. If you're confused, this basically means that the Kindle can't read ePub-format books, and AZW-format books are only available through the Amazon bookstore.

If you're savvy with software and don't mind fiddling around on your computer, don't despair! The Kindle also supports HTML, DOC, PDF and TXT file types. With the right file-conversion software, such as Calibre, you can purchase your ePub files and convert them to a file type supported by the Kindle.

If you don't have a Kindle, then alas, it doesn't work the other way around; any ebooks bought on the Amazon website can only be read on the Kindle.

Here is a list of the top-selling e-readers in Australia and the ebook files they support:

  • Amazon Kindle: AZW, DOC, HTML, MOBI, PDF, TXT

  • Kobo: ePub, PDF

  • Sony Readers (Touch, Pocket): BBeB (Sony proprietary), DOC, ePub, LRF, PDF, RTF, TXT.

If you have an iPad, you can get books through the iTunes book store, but there are free and paid apps that also support ebook file formats; our favourite is Stanza (free). You can also download a free Kindle app to buy and read books from Amazon.

OK, now that that's out of the way, let's get to what you actually came here for.

Ebook stores


Amazon is the world's largest purveyor of ebooks, but a few caveat emptors are required. Firstly, you can only read ebooks purchased from Amazon on the Kindle; secondly, there are sellers who repackage material from sources such as independent authors and Project Gutenberg and sell it illegally. That said, the ease of the Kindle's native app store and the size of Amazon make it a tempting proposition.

File format: AZW.


Formerly Borders, Bookworld is the most comprehensive bookstore in Australia. It's not bad, either; the ebooks seem to be priced in alignment with other Australian ebook sellers, and in some cases cheaper than what you can expect to find on Amazon. See also: Angus & Robertson.

File format: ePub.

The Book Depository

The Book Depository has websites based in both the UK and the US, and a good selection of ebooks that are generally quite decently priced. If you're checking Bookworld, head over to both Book Depository websites — quite often, one of the two will have a sale on and you may be able to score a better bargain.

File formats: ePub, PDF.

Kobo Books

Kobo Books is the bookstore owned (quelle surprise!) by Kobo, which is also behind the Kobo e-reader. It has around 350,000 ebooks for sale, as well as 1.8 million free ones (or thereabouts), and prices range generally between AU$10-AU$20, which isn't too shabby at all. If you're looking for a replacement for your Borders ebook needs, Kobo Books is a good way to go.

File format: ePub.


If you're looking for something a bit different, Smashwords offers an alternative to the big-name stores. It offers ebooks from independent authors and publishers at a much lower average price than shops like the three mentioned above. The author gets a bigger percentage of the cut, too, so it's a great way to support writers if you feel disillusioned with the publishing house system, and you can find some hidden gems that you might not otherwise have read.

File formats: ePub, HTML, JavaScript, LRF, MOBI, PDB, PDF, RB, RTF, TXT.

Barnes & Noble

This US-based ebookstore can be a bit of an exercise in frustration, since it won't let you download certain titles from an Australian IP address, but that's par for the course — Amazon does the same thing. Still, pricing is quite reasonable, and B&N can act as one more port of call if you want to make sure you're getting the best price.

File format: ePub.

Free ebooks


Manybooks hosts public domain books from Project Gutenberg (excepting PG Australia), and allows you to download them in a variety of formats. Additionally, you will be able to find more contemporaneous books with a creative commons licence (free).

File formats: AZW, ePub, HTML, LIT, LRF, MOBI, PDB, PDF, PKG, TCR, TXT.

Project Gutenberg

Any books written by authors who died before 1955 are considered public domain in Australia, and the volunteers of Project Gutenberg have worked to make these books available for free. The site's navigation is a bit bare bones, but there are a lot of great classics to be found.

File formats: ePub, HTML, MOBI, TXT.


Feedbooks is an ebook seller with a section where you can download free public domain titles, as well as a bunch of new creative commons titles.

File formats: ePub, MOBI, PDF.


Fantasy and sci-fi publishing house Baen is something of a fan favourite for its excellent stable of authors, fairly reasonable prices and permanent selection of titles available for free download from some well-known names.

File formats: ePub, LIT, LRF, MOBI, RB, RTF.


Scribd bills itself as a social publishing website, where anyone can upload or download works and content, with file conversion built in. You can also read free sample works from major publishing houses. It's a great resource to find free works by established authors or stumble onto someone new.

File formats: PDF, TXT.

If you've exhausted all the possibilities above, E-book has a veritable cornucopia of links to free ebook resources for Australian readers.

Still got questions? Ask away in the comments below and we'll be happy to help you out.

Add Your Comment 12

Post comment as

flutterby posted a comment   

The comments here seem quite old, so am wondering what you would recommend now in April 2014 for me buying my first e reader.


WaelM posted a comment   

You can use a package forwarding or product forwarding in this case site like They can buy the book for you and sent it to you.


GlynnF posted a comment has about half a million free ebooks as well!


TinaA posted a comment accepts buyers from Australia as well.


DenverL posted a comment   
New Zealand

I am in dilemma in buying a ebook reader for my 10-yr-old daughter.

For Kindle, its ebooks are cheaper with more selection, but not compatible with local library.

For others, e.g. Sony, Kobo, etc., they're compatible with local library but ebooks are more expensive.

Any suggestions? Thanks.


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

Hi Denver,

Ultimately it just comes down to what you prefer, but if I was choosing, I'd go the epub-compatible reader; convenience and options are more important to me than saving 50c here and there on a book.

If you stay away from new release titles, and shop from overseas stores such as The Book Depository, you'll generally find that ebooks end up much cheaper than print titles either way, though.

Does this help?



rsser3 posted a comment   

FWIW B&N wouldn't accept my Australian credit card for purchases.


foxiejohn posted a comment   

I have a sight impaired sister who likes to read Large Print Books btu has read everthing in the local library.
An eReader sounds like an answer but I would like her to view one before I buy it for her. Where can I physically compare these devices so she will know that she can use one. She is a swithced on 89 year old.


Michelle Starr posted a reply   

Hi foxiejohn,

Unfortunately you won't be able to see the Kindle unless you know someone who has one; Amazon is based in the US and only sells out of there.

To see the Sony Readers, you can go into a Sony store. Kobo e-readers are sold at Angus & Robertson stores; I would recommend waiting until the newer, cheaper model is launched next month, though.

ABC shops also sell e-readers (be careful, though; they seem quite expensive there), and you can also check out electronics shops such as JB HiFi and Dick Smith for cheaper models. OfficeWorks also sells a back-lit LCD model.

Let me know if you need some more help :)

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