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Not every single site that I review is going to be a torrent site, per se. Sometimes a site is so good that I think it deserves to be listed here, even though it doesn’t require a BitTorrent or uTorrent client to access the files that it offers. At the end of the day, what we are really after is free indie eBook downloads, right? Well, that is precisely why sites like Book Yards need to be included on my list. We would all miss out on exceptional free indie eBook downloads if they were not!
Book Yards is a free indie eBook download site that lets users quickly, easily, and conveniently download free indie eBook files with one click. Book Yards is nobly promoting literacy throughout the world by doing the thankless job of providing free indie eBooks for all to read.
It is a noble job because, well, studies would suggest that people are getting dumber. Or, if not dumber, at the very least our vocabularies are shrinking – we can debate later on whether or not that means that people are getting dumber. At any rate, Book Yards cites a Smithsonian Institute study in their mission statement. The study is a comparative one. First, it points to how a 14-year-old American teenager in the 1940s had, on average, a vocabulary of 25,000+ words. It then contrasts that by illustrating the fact that, today, an American teenager has a vocabulary of only 10,000 words.
That is a decrease of 60%. The average vocabularies of American teenagers today have shrunken by 60%. Is that not alarming?
Well, they are going the Wikipedia route, it seems. By asking volunteers to help the mission, Book Yards hopes to one day have an enormous global library of free indie eBooks. Although this form of crowdsourced volunteer labor can work (clearly, as Wikipedia itself is testament to), I am, personally, a bit skeptical as to whether this model will be effective for the daunting task of Book Yards.
It is one thing to ask people to create and edit an encyclopedia page. The amount of content required for somebody to work on when it comes to something like that is relatively low. Asking users to contribute to publishing entire books, on the other hand, whew, that is a doozy. I am optimistic, don’t get me wrong, I truly hope that this model can be proven to work over the years. That being said, I do think that Book Yards should look into hiring at least a small staff that can publish eBooks to supplement the work that volunteers are also doing. This needs to an all hands on deck effort, I think, in order for it to grow into the kind of super library of the world that Book Yards clearly envisions.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I support Book Yards’ vision 110% of the way. People don’t read enough nowadays, it is true, and maybe that is partly because books are not as accessible as they could be. Maybe. Either way, I am thrilled to share Book Yards with you today, and I would like to encourage you, if you have the additional time and interest, to consider becoming one of the site’s volunteer publishers.
Before we get there, though, first we have to see whether Book Yards is even a solid source of free indie eBooks to begin with. Is this site good enough to warrant your time and energy, either as a resource for you to download free indie eBooks (there are plenty of others out there, mind you) or to inspire your voluntary contributions to the site? Well, let’s dive in and see exactly what the site has to offer, shall we?
Unfortunately, I would like to see Book Yards improve their site design. I think this should be one of their first orders of business. I know that you should not judge a book by its cover. But, let’s face it, people do. And a site’s design and user experience is something of the website’s version of a book cover. It is the first thing that people notice when they visit your site. Therefore, you want that design to be inviting, modern, professional, and interesting,
Although Book Yards’ site design is not overtly terrible, I cannot say that it is inviting, modern, professional, or interesting to look at. It looks, frankly, like it could have been designed on Angel Fire in the middle of the 1990s. The site’s use of clip art icons is unprofessional, and its background of books on a shelf is cliché and, if I am being honest, a tad cheesy.
There is, at least, a carousal banner on the home page, but none of the slides are clickable. They are just (from the looks of it) stock images related to reading. Why not use this as a means of promoting newly published books, or a book of the week, or something like that to actually inspire users to check specific content out? This carousal is pointless, even if it is the only aspect giving this site a somewhat modern feel.
The browsing and searching mechanisms of this site, too, could stand improvement. There is, for instance, not a single book cover associated with any of the titles available here. Even the most famous authors often do not have an associated image (but there is a blank avatar for them). These are very basic things that need to be fleshed out. They may seem somewhat trivial, but they truly will add a necessary element to the overall site design in the end. As it is currently, this website feels unfinished, like it is just a first draft. It is time to revise, Book Yards.
Content and Features
Book Yards is a place to download free indie eBooks. Nothing more, nothing less. I respect the site’s straightforward nature. From the moment that you land on the site, you are prompted to browse books by author, book title, or publishing members. From there, it is just a matter of finding what you want and clicking download. The simplicity of this site is brilliant.
Free indie eBooks are available to download in PDF and Kobo formats. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find an eBook on Book Yards that is available in ePub (the format used with Kindle). That being said, so long as you have a decent PDF reader on your computer, phone, or tablet, the PDF formats should be just fine, even if they lack many of the features that an eReader makes possible.
The fact that you can easily convert books to Kobo, though, is amazing and rare. Kobo users rejoice, Book Yards will be a priceless resource of free eBooks for you.
There are also a few indie audiobooks available on Book Yards. Only a handful, though, as of the time of this writing. I can imagine it must be even more difficult to find someone who is willing to record and publish an entire indie audiobook for free than it would be to find someone who is willing to copy or transcribe a written one.
Additionally, of course, you can become a member of the site and a publisher if you so desire.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
The site is optimized for mobile in the most bare-bones way imaginable. All of the images are removed from the site when you view it on a smartphone or tablet. It becomes nothing more than a sparse index of available titles, free indie eBook downloads. Honestly, it surprises me to say it, but I sort of enjoy this spartan mobile site – it should be a quick and easy resource to download eBooks on the fly.